By Chris Canale, Director of Business Development, Asia Pacific, World Wide Technology
What is blockchain?
Blockchain is a term that has become closely associated with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum due to their wild swings in monetary value and immense popularity in recent years. From a technological point of view, blockchain is a shared digital ledger or database – a continuously growing list of records called blocks which are shared across a network and are tamper-resistant.
Users may access, inspect and add to the encrypted data, but the original information cannot be changed, and every transaction leaves a permanent record. Every addition to the chain is also reflected simultaneously across the entire network, making blockchain the technology that will possibly revolutionise the entire supply chain.
“blockchain is a shared digital database – a continuously growing list of records called blocks which are shared across a network and are tamper-resistant.”
Blockchain-ing the supply chain
The supply chain has seen little change since the introduction of standardised shipping containers decades ago. The current system relies heavily on manual checks and paper records to track shipments and manage inventory.
A simple shipment of flowers or fruit from Asia to Europe might involve hundreds of paper documents across dozens of customs and logistical checkpoints. A single lost or erroneous form could get the shipment stuck in port for several days, causing costly delays and even spoilage of perishable food or agricultural products.
Blockchain will be able to vastly improve both time and cost efficiencies in the supply chain by automating many of the currently manual processes and increasing transparency by allowing for real-time tracking of shipments for all parties – the sender, recipient, shipping company and so on. Blockchain can be combined with other technologies such as RFID and IoT to further automate certain processes, such as inventory checks and stock takes, both in the warehouse and along the supply chain.
Blockchain can also increase the safety of the supply chain by allowing easy traceability of goods such as food items. In cases of food safety lapses, such as E. coli or listeria outbreaks, having a blockchain-enabled supply chain can help pinpoint the source of contamination or batch of affected products in a matter of hours and minutes, compared to the current system which might take days and even weeks.
The tightened authentication process in a blockchain will also help in ensuring the authenticity of goods and combat the flow of counterfeits into the supply chain. Moreover, since the data in a blockchain is encrypted, administrators can hide sensitive data, such as content of high value, to protect against theft.
Blockchain & System Integrators
While the above examples have shown the immense benefits of blockchain technology for the supply chain sector, it is not the end-all and be-all solution. For companies to fully reap the benefits of blockchain, it must be combined and integrated with other technology.
As blockchain adoption increases, system integrators will act as important links in the chain to integrate blockchain with other technologies and deliver customised solutions for companies looking to implement or upgrade their IT ecosystems.
Integrating different systems can be a complex and time-consuming task. System integrators play an important role by doing the “heavy lifting” for customers. Rather than having to assemble an IT system from scratch and managing a supply chain of multiple suppliers and vendors, system integrators help customers streamline the entire process and offer an integrated system of synergistic technologies that work well together.
At WWT, such integration processes are conducted at our integration centres which are climate-controlled production environments with advanced networking, secure remote access and ISO-certified procedures specifically designed for staging, kitting and configuring the latest advanced technology solutions. Our experience has shown that shifting to such factory-based implementation can reduce the cost of system implementations by 30% or more, as well as reduce on-site downtime associated with dead-on-arrival equipment. We have also helped to increase the speed of technology implementation for our customers by as much as 50%.
Supply Chain Management of the Future
The advent of new and exciting technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, IoT, drone delivery and so on offer many possibilities for the supply chain industry. While these technologies can be adopted and combined in various ways to make the supply chain of the future more efficient and safe, many of the use cases are still in their trial stages and the true benefits remain to be seen.
In the meantime, system integrators still have an important role to play in not only assembling and integrating systems to streamline the supply chain, but also in testing, analysing and ensuring the systems that are rolled out are best suited to the needs of clients and are plug-and-play ready.
Leading WWT’s business development efforts in Asia-Pacific, Chris Canale provides strategy and consulting services to field sales teams focused on acquiring new business and growing existing relationships.
Chris is also responsible for building WWT’s brand across the region through marketing and PR efforts as well as developing and managing key strategic partner relationships in the region.
Chris has served in various IT and business consulting roles in the past 17 years including Consultant, Program Manager and most recently, Director of Business Development. He relocated to Singapore in 2016 after spending his entire WWT career at their corporate headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri.