This interview is part of our new Blockchain In Supply Chain Management series, where we interview the world's leading thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between blockchain and supply chain management.
In this interview we speak with John Monarch, CEO and co-founder of ShipChain, to understand how his company is using blockchain to transform the supply chain management business, and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind ShipChain? Why and how did you begin?
JM: ShipChain was founded by a group of us, all working in different industries, that were equally frustrated by how inefficient shipping practices were setting back our business operations. The more we discussed it amongst ourselves, the more we realized that these issues were universal to just about everyone. It is amazing how shipping plays such a vital role in all of our lives, both personally and professionally. If you look around you, practically everything has been shipped at some point. For how much we rely on it, the industry is still riddled with inefficiencies and bottlenecks. We wanted to create the solution, and thus began ShipChain.
2. Please describe your use case/s and how ShipChain uses blockchain:
JM: ShipChain is using blockchain technology to transform supply chain management with our Unified Visibility Platform.
Currently, the largest issue facing the supply chain industry as a whole is the lack of transparency and visibility. Most businesses have an opaque supply chain in which they have no accurate sense of where their goods are and what is going on with them. Additionally, a shipment typically goes through several different processes and touchpoints before it reaches the end customer. With the number of hands touching each package, the lack of transparency becomes an issue as billions of dollars worth of goods are lost, misplaced, or stolen every year.
Our Track and Trace Platform boosts transparency and accountability for all parties by providing a layer of visibility that was previously nonexistent. With our Platform, you can see the entire history of a shipment, from the procurement of raw materials to its final delivery to the customer. This means that you can pinpoint exactly where an item might be lost, misplaced, stolen, damaged, or no longer suitable for consumption or use. It also helps supply chain managers place accountability. This means that you can focus more on making proactive adjustments to ensure that such situations never occur again as opposed to wasting time and resources trying to place blame.
Another issue in supply chain management is data integrity. We provide a place to view data and information in a raw and untarnished format. This data is stamped, stored, and effectively notarized on the blockchain and can never be tampered with or changed. We believe this helps add back trust to an otherwise trustless ecosystem.
By bringing blockchain to supply chain management, ShipChain will ensure that records are always accurate and verified, accountability is accurately placed, and all parties are easily able to track and trace in an environment in which visibility is boosted for all.
3. Could you share a customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
JM: We started working with Scandinavian logistics company Scanlog earlier this year. We installed our GPS enabled cellular devices, known as Axle Gateways, into several Scanlog-associated trucks. Through these Axle Gateways, all shipment information associated with those trucks posts directly to the Ethereum blockchain. Scanlog has full access to the true and untampered with data gathered on the ShipChain Platform and can use that information to help guide future strategy and procedure. Scanlog also uses the ShipChain Mobile app to attach photos and other relevant information to specific shipments. Since working together, we have drastically helped increase visibility into their supply chain, which has been hugely beneficial for all parties involved.
4. What other blockchain use cases in supply chain management are you excited about?
JM: There are so many good use cases for blockchain in supply chain management. In truth, any company that is looking to boost visibility would benefit from leveraging blockchain. This applies to companies of all sizes, industries, locations– you name it.
Something that I am excited about seeing more of is blockchain applications in food. A huge issue nowadays is recalls. Recalls result in significant financial losses and end up damaging a company’s reputation in the short term. Thankfully, blockchain can play a key role by increasing visibility and traceability so that any affected product can be immediately identified. Contaminated foods can be easily trailed back to the source and subsequently pulled before they reach the customer. This means that supply chain managers have the opportunity to take proactive steps to reduce a recall’s impact before it turns into a nationwide panic. Additionally, blockchain can show supply chain managers what was responsible for the recall, which helps place accountability and allows decision-makers to reevaluate their processes moving forward.
Another great use case would be pharmaceuticals, as people rely on their medication or medical devices to stay healthy. Since we are talking about life and death, visibility in this space is very important. Blockchain can ensure that all pharmaceuticals are maintained at proper temperatures, are legitimate (counterfeiting is a big issue in this industry), and are kept safely and securely. Essentially, blockchain in the pharma supply chain can save lives, so I am looking forward to seeing the industry embrace blockchain.
5. Where will ShipChain be in 5 years?
JM: Within the next few years, I anticipate corporations having larger budgets for new technology and innovation. This means more people investing in a blockchain platform. As it currently stands, we see so much interest from the industry, but because it is such a new technology, there are still some reservations. In 5 years, I think blockchain will be commonplace, especially when it comes to logistics and supply chain.
Additionally, we are confident that the future will be the public blockchain. Public blockchains actually keep data more safe and secure than their private counterparts, and allow for all parties to collaborate seamlessly. People are very excited that there is a public blockchain option available through ShipChain’s Platform, and so the technology is integral to our acquisition of new customers. Currently, a few companies are giving it a shot, but most are waiting for legitimate use cases. That is one of our big initiatives to engage potential clients, and have already begun working on our first case study. We are confident that once all of the data is available, the facts will speak for themselves.
And so in 5 years, we envision blockchain being an accepted norm, and the ShipChain Platform playing an integral role in helping make the industry more efficient, transparent, and profitable for all.