When it comes to blockchain technology, there’s a lot of talk, but not a lot of information about how it can be used and commercialized. Beyond cryptocurrency, blockchain offers a wide range of solutions for tons of different industries - especially supply chain.In a world where we move fast and product moves faster, blockchain technology can be a key asset in making sure your products are traceable and safe.
A Quick Overview Of Blockchain
In a nutshell, blockchain is a digital ledger of publicly made data entries. Every entry represents a block in the chain of data, creating a detailed, documented, trail of information.The key to blockchain’s success is its infrastructure - data cannot be altered without changing the following entries. Further, since data is owned across a collective network, all participants in the blockchain network can see any and all changes made.
The Future of Blockchain (Spoiler Alert: It’s Not Just Bitcoin)
The most prominent user of blockchain is the FinTech (financial technology) industry - cryptocurrency was one of the first and largest blockchain users. However, blockchain is highly valuable for any industry with an IoT presence in need of traceability and security, creating major opportunities for supply chain improvements. Traceability is currently one of the biggest pain points of the modern supply chain. Sure, items like clothing and handbags have long dealt with counterfeiting, but who wants to potentially receive counterfeit makeup, food, or even medicine?
Today, FDA regulations are increasing, consumers have more power to share product damage or failures, companies are pushing more product out than ever before, and demand for traceability has left companies scrambling to find a solution. If you’ve tried buying a popular product on Amazon, you’ve likely experienced that moment of uncertainty when buying from a third-party reseller instead of directly from the brand. You’ll likely see this is the reviews section where consumers alert others to the integrity of a product from unfortunately first-hand experience.
Using Blockchain for Product Authenticity and Traceability
We see claims of authenticity all the time. One hundred percent sulfate free. No artificial ingredients. Non-GMO.As consumers, we put a lot of trust in labels, but too many companies talk the talk without walking the walk.For example, the organic food industry is exploding, but research shows that more organic food is sold than produced. So how do we, as consumers, know when labels are telling the truth? And how do companies, as industry makers, prove that their claims are valid?This is where blockchain can come into play.
How Blockchain Creates Supply Chain Checks and Balances
As previously mentioned, blockchain is decentralized technology. This means that a distributed network of people control and make decisions about the data.
Unfortunately, the modern supply chain is quite the opposite. Oftentimes, information is heavily siloed, incorrect, or simply can’t be found. It also means there’s only a few people who decide if data is valid. For example, some of the most common technology-enabled traceability solutions are electronic product codes (EPC) and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID). And don’t get me wrong, it’s a step up from identifying and tracking items manually or not at all, but both of these technologies rely on centralized databases with single points of failure, i.e., are extremely vulnerable to hacking and fraud. Mistakes happen, but as a consumer, I wouldn’t want a company to have to choose between manipulating data to cover a slip up or losing hundreds of thousands of dollars to correct it.
With blockchain, for a product to move forward, companies must have consensus on the data. You can’t change or add data without consensus from the network and consistency amongst subsequent data (for example, you can’t change package dimensions without also changing label dimensions). Ledgers double as product change history and assurance in the product a company brings to market.
How Supply Chain Professionals Like You Are Using Blockchain
It’s time to face the facts - technology is advancing rapidly and sooner or later, it’ll be a lot harder to claim product authenticity without the data to back it up. Putting the infrastructure in place now will ensure companies don’t fall behind the curve and serve as a competitive advantage.
How to Get Started: Leverage Specright Network
The Specright Network was recently highlighted in a Salesforce Developer conference for being an innovative use of blockchain technology.
Specright’s Specification Data Management platform leverages blockchain technology and all of its advantages to bring more value to supply chain management. By increasing visibility at the spec level and encompassing all moving parts of the supply chain, companies can improve the speed and results of their decision making and gain greater peace of mind.
One of our customers, Grimmway Farms, had this to say about the game changing nature of blockchain technology coupled with Specification Management. “Specifications change constantly due to a variety of reasons. Regulatory compliance, sustainability efforts and marketing initiatives are just a few of the drivers on that list. Ultimately, the entire supply chain is impacted,” said Jason Higbee, General Manager at Cal-Organic Farms, a division of Grimmway Farms, a global produce leader and the world’s largest producer of carrots. “Specright’s Blockchain Network has the potential to improve visibility, organization, and change management of critical specification data across the supply chain while increasing efficiency and control.”