A week before Christmas in 2025, the accounts manager for a mobile phone store logs into Blockchain to pay the invoice for delivery of some stock.
Using her private Blockchain key, she can see every detail of the phones’ journey along the supply chain, from digital barcodes certifying that the components were sourced from ethical mining companies to confirmation of the delivery lorry’s pick-up from the warehouse where the phones were stored.
Her payment to the transport firm is the next link in the chain. She confirms the transaction and it is immediately verified by the millions of other computers on the blockchain node. Every company on the supply chain can see the invoice has been paid.
This is the future of supply chain management. Developed to support the operation of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, blockchain has been described as a ‘digital ledger’, or a data spreadsheet duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers. The spreadsheet records transactions and updates itself every ten minutes across that network. Each group of these transactions is referred to as a “block”.
The information is transparent, verifiable and secure, as the millions of computers on the node make the system far harder to hack than a centralized one.
While its initial use was for tracking financial transactions, blockchain also offers a new way of potentially enabling and tracking a supply chain. This provides a decentralized way to follow a product from creation to distribution and verify all the information about it.
Some programs are already been developed with this in mind, in particular with regard to tracing a product’s ethical origins. A company called Everledger has created a digital ledger to track and protect valuable assets. It has registered the ID of more than one million diamonds, making it easier to check whether gems were stolen or mined in war zones. Another prototype program called Provenance aims to give every physical product a digital ‘passport’ proving its authenticity and origin.
This approach does rely on all companies along the supply chain agreeing to sign up to blockchain and use the technology to track their processes, but this may become inevitable as more and more people adopt it.
Other pilot programs have been developed for logistics, including one by Maersk and IBM which created a single electronic store for every document relating to a shipment. The companies recently announced a joint venture applying Blockchain to improve global trade and digitise supply chains. A transport company called T-mining is also testing blockchain apps for container logistics to improve the security at the physical handover of containers in ports. Blockchains intersecting with the ‘Internet of Things’ could revolutionize transport systems, with internet-enabled vehicles recording every detail of their journeys and repair history onto blockchain ledgers.
The technology is still emerging. Michael J Casey, a senior advisor for blockchain research at MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative, has pointed out in an article for Coindesk that “the major value blockchain technology offers to supply-chain management will come once other technologies, such as 3D printing, bring major disruption to global manufacturing and delivery networks.”
Nevertheless some companies are already planning ahead for this, building in blockchain project teams to manage the projected changes. From a recruitment perspective, many of Bramwith’s clients have indicated they would be very interested in candidates with knowledge of Blockchain.
In summary, Blockchain is not the new supply chain but it is absolutely going to change the way supply chains operate, as well as many other facets of business and everyday life from bank transactions to health services. As such, it’s something that both employers and candidates should be reading up on.
Is your company investing in Blockchain technology, or seeking candidates with Blockchain expertise? And how do you see this innovation affecting the industry? Comment below, or get in touch with Ben Riley on firstname.lastname@example.org with any recruitment queries.
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