Supply chains are the links that allow a product to be made in one part of the world, and travel thousands of miles to end up in a customer’s hands seemingly by magic.
Between those two points however are dozens of exchanges, customs agreements and middlemen creating, sharing and directing data. Because of that, irregularities, errors and lost products often creep in.
Blockchain has been seen as a natural fit to help fix some of supply chains issues.
We explore five companies who are actively tackling some of the biggest challenges in the space. 💪
Helping import and export companies build better reputations with Eximchain 🚢
When companies invest money in supply chains, the efficiency of those chains goes up, waste goes down, and cost of shipping becomes cheaper.
However, supply chain financing has been traditionally difficult to implement, especially on supply chains that cross borders and involve multiple companies. How do you identify the bad actors in your supply chain? That’s where Eximchain comes in.
The project developed at MIT’s Media Lab, uses blockchain technology to help importers and exporters build credit scores for use in international trade.
It provides tools to help companies improve their reputations and lower the cost of financing, while simultaneously making it easier to track and manage inventory.
In future, supply chain actors can showcase their stellar reputations to companies looking to ship goods across the world, and help companies track their goods in real time.
Creating digital certifications for physical products with Provenance 🎫
Consumer-facing industries like food and clothing rely on third-party certifications to validate the ethics of a company as well as verify the origin of products.
But ethical certification brands like Fairtrade have been facing criticism recently. Supermarkets like the UK's Sainsbury’s and Tesco are moving to create their own labelling standards, and dropping Fairtrade's. This has lead to a fragmentation in guidelines and the meanings, as well as increased customer confusion.
That’s where Provenance comes in.
It uses blockchain technology to create digital footprints of goods that consumers can interact with. It teamed up with the likes of the Soil Association to help bolster the mark’s credentials by allowing customers to interact with products and connect physical goods to their digital journeys.
In another example, they worked with FairFood to provide a way for consumers to see exactly how producers were paid for their time and labour.
This helps certification schemes, which have helped create standards and fairer practices for producers stay relevant in the 21st century.
Helping keep track of diamonds with Everledger 💎
The diamond industry has a problem with supply chains: spotting stolen or conflict-zone diamonds among the hundreds of thousands of diamonds that are bought exchanged globally week.
In fact, it costs the insurance industry some $2 billion thanks to fraudulent diamond claims. That’s where Everledger comes in.
The startup has the details of more than a million diamonds stored on its secure ledger. It tracks 40 unique data points on each stone to create a digital thumbprint of each stone.
As each diamond changes hand, the record of that diamond is updated, too. This helps traders and insurers monitor the provenance of jewels and to spot stolen or conflict-zone diamonds and prevent them from entering the supply chain under false documentation.
Helping prevent food-fraud with Arc-net 🙅♂️
Food fraud occurs when products are deliberately diluted, mislabelled, tampered with or substituted with another product. Food fraud is estimated to cost the UK food and drink industry up to £11 billion per year.
Arc-net are helping tackle that problem, using the blockchain.
They’ve created a platform that allows food manufacturers to track and identify products as they enter and move through the food chain.
It’s even gone so far as to create the world’s first beer built on the blockchain. Teaming up with Ireland Craft Beers, each bottle of the new Downstream IPL has a QR code that allows the company and its customers to trace each bottle through the brewery and the supplier network.
Making charities and charitable giving more transparent with BitGive 💁♂️
When you give to charities, do you know where and what that money is being spent on? Trust in charities has taken a dent recently, especially in the UK after a series of scandals surrounding Oxfam and Kids Company revealed how the charities had misappropriated funds.
That’s where companies like BitGive come in.
It’s a platform nonprofits use for taking donations and sharing with donors exactly how their contributions are used while tying donations directly to a project result.
It's first venture, GiveTrack, allows donors to donate using Bitcoin. Once the project is funded, donators can see what and where their money is being used. If the funds leave bitcoin and are converted into a local currency, digital or written transaction information is fed to the GiveTrack platform to show what that money was used for on the ground.
Project status is also tracked by the nonprofit. Information is fed to BitGive as a project progresses enabling donors to see how long a project is taking all the way to completion.
The future 🔮
Supply chains have seen some of the biggest innovations when it comes to blockchain implementation. Maersk, the world's largest shipping container business has recently partnered with IBM to implement blockchain into large portions of its shipping operation coming out of China.
In early trials, the shipping giant found they could speed up the process of moving goods globally by 15% using blockchain.
When the world's biggest shipping company decides to go big on blockchain, you can rest assured that others will be soon to follow.