How blockchain traceability can improve supply chain management

Is it time for your business to look at blockchain traceability?

As the US manages the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences in international travel and trade, many businesses have examined their supply chains and how they can withstand this and other major challenges. After all, good supply chain management is key to success and customer happiness.

Manufacturers often need global supply chains, which bring their own set of problems in identifying and tracking what is actually going into the product they release out to customers.

If a supply chain works across multiple organizations and countries, it can be difficult to chase individual events. Today, most company information will flow through a supply chain with little or no agreement when it comes to data taxonomy, with no uniform way of recording, storing and exchanging data.

Supply chain challenges can be particularly complex for the food and beverage industry. For one thing, goods are perishable, meaning products often need to be consumed within days and weeks. There are also many variables to deal with, such as supplier issues, food safety standards and bad weather.

This means there is a level or risk and uncertainty, which in worst-case scenarios can result in public health challenges (in the food and drink industry) and product recalls (think how serious these can be for automotive manufacturers, for example).

Forward-thinking businesses look to technology to solve business problems. For supply chain management, should they be looking at blockchain?

How can blockchain support supply chain management?

Blockchain is a technology that takes the form of decentralized open-source ledgers that can record transactions in a verifiable and permanent way – providing a near real-time and indelible record that can be replicated among participants.

A blockchain is a database stored in multiple locations that can maintain increasing records (or blocks) which are timestamped and linked to previous blocks in a way that cannot be undone.

It’s a method of recording data – anything that needs recording and verified as happened. Once data has been recorded, it cannot be changed – only added to and updated on the entire network.

The blockchain has the potential to create a smarter and more secure supply chain, as products can be tracked through a clear and solid audit trail with near real-time visibility.

Businesses in all industries could track materials, determine where they arrived, who received and handled them, and how and when they were transported to a next stage.

Robert Sinfield, Vice President of Product for Sage Business Cloud X3, says: “On the visibility side, blockchain ERP systems could enable everyone involved to track the product’s journey from the manufacturing floor to the retailer’s shelf, without having to worry about records being lost or tampered with.

“Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the food and beverage space, where blockchain will provide transparency and product provenance that is validated from farm to fork.”

Seamless movement between suppliers and manufacturers

Right now, supply chains aren’t particularly agile, which isn’t good in industries where companies need to change configurations quickly and meet constantly changing supply and demand.

Because businesses in a supply chain can vary a lot in terms of their technology level and the way they communicate (many firms still use paper, for example), it can be impossible to share

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