Blockchains are distributed electronic ledgers that use software to record and confirm transactions with speed and certainty. The ledger is backed up across multiple computer systems which must agree to new transactions. This process allows for certainty and immutability in data, all with the latest in cryptographic security.
There are some exciting things to think about when it comes to the blockchain. I’m not interested in fuelling any political or technical debate so instead, I’m going to speculate as to how a concept like a blockchain could be positively applied to supply chain.
Blockchain in supply chain can impact: ethics, trace-ability, removing paperwork, improving speed, standardizing transactions.
To elaborate: we live in 2018 and still have issues with child labour along with a global warming problems which aren’t going away combined with a cultural shift which is more and more demanding of the information surrounding a product as much as the product itself.
Blockchain offers the ability to standardize transactions across multiple nodes in the supply chain, which improves the speed at which transactions can be completed (imagine fewer pieces of paper to process by customs because data has been validated and is readily accessible digitally). The aggregate result of all this for supply chain is not just less paperwork but more traceability of whats going on, without any additional effort. You get more information, for less work - this is a good thing - and by knowing where something has come from it becomes harder to manipulate labour conditions or negatively contribute to climate issues.
As an example: we are looking at a situation where you are able to go to a clothing store, find a shirt, look up the product on your phone and find out where all of the the materials which made the shirt come from, where were they combined (manufactured) to become a shirt, how they were transported to the distribution centres and stores and how long they have been sitting on the shelf.
This is an inspiring amount of visibility and blockchain offers the ability to showcase all of this information with the credibility of a verified series of transactions in a decentralized (harder to tamper with) network. So it's definitely something to pay attention to in the future.
Really though, I think it's going to take time for the technology to properly become refined, for the data to become usable and for the tech itself to become usable in the way which has been hyped.