It’s only people with money to burn who can spend it freely, and the business world is no exception.
Businesses with deep pockets have begun venturing into blockchain territory, and they’re leading by example for smaller supply chain managers. These large early investors will be the first to show tangible proof of the blockchain’s value in supply chain management.
These proofs of concept should justify broader investment in blockchain by more conservative businesses. It’s the smaller and medium-sized companies that must take every competitive advantage they can find, and blockchain could certainly represent one such advantage.
As companies become more acquainted with distributed ledgers, they could deploy them in a customer-facing manner. Visual proof of a product’s journey from producers to store shelves hits shoppers where it matters: in the heartstrings.
Companies using the blockchain will likely save money by losing fewer products and managing inventory with greater efficiency. These benefits are mostly invisible to the general public, but executives leading these businesses will notice right away.
As word spreads that blockchain can automate, oversee, and save money, expect more supply chain managers to embrace this category of management software.
The following experts provided their own takes on what the future of blockchain technology in supply chain management will look like.
1. Bhagat Nainani, Group Vice President of IoT and Blockchain Applications Development, Oracle
“It’s my belief that blockchain will eventually become a standard offering in cloud ERP and supply chain applications. The businesses that are early adopters of blockchain tend to be large, complex organizations with vast trading networks and multi-tier supply chains. Early use cases for blockchain in the supply chain have shown significant reduction of dispute costs and improved product quality assurance.
As this technology moves from supply to finance, we’ll start to see blockchain enabling distributed, autonomous marketplaces, reducing friction in business transactions, as well as managing and securing decentralized private records with encryption. There are also use cases coming in human resources where blockchain will help to validate university qualifications and employment history to improve accuracy and trust in hiring.”
2. Kelly Marchese, Principal, Supply Chain & Network Operations at Deloitte Consulting
“A wise logistician once said: “you need to know where your supply chain has been to know where it can go”. In other words, knowing what aspects of the supply chain need to be improved and establishing a baseline of performance will be essential to understand how blockchain can solve issues. Blockchain is the holy grail of logistics; achieving total supply chain visibility is now possible. Organizations that embrace the shift from linear supply chains to digital networks are poised to leverage blockchain and other technologies. Future organizations will leverage technologies such as blockchain to exchange value, connect siloed operations, collaborate with partners in a secure manner, and accelerate the evolution into digital supply chains.”
3. Sylvie Thompson, Associate Partner for Supply Chain Optimization with Infosys Consulting
4. Steve Treagust, Global Industry Director at IFS
“The next step for blockchain in supply chain management is broader adoption. It’s not a case of if this will happen, but when. In my opinion, to boost trust and provide stability, organizations must work together to establish trust-based relationships, creating diverse communities intent on delivering positive value from the blockchain ecosystem. This would also require enforceable regulatory control—enough to curb the worst of human behavior in free markets, but not enough to stifle blockchain innovation.”
5. Ken Evans, CEO of Konexial
“The future of blockchain in supply chain will take several years to unfold. Supply chain software tends to lag other software verticals. We are nearing the peak of the hype cycle. This means that substantive progress will follow after the disillusionment phase.”
6. Gert Sylvest, CTO and Co-founder and GM of Tradeshift Frontiers
“Once the challenges are addressed, blockchain will make trading relationships much easier between distant partners who otherwise have no reason to trust each other. It will also allow track and trace, so consumers and trading partners can see and verify the origin of goods and all the steps and conditions they were stored under along the way. But we have to overcome the challenges first.”
7. Christiaan Sluijs, CFO of T-Mining
“In the short term, blockchain technology will mainly be applied to improve operational efficiency by optimising existing business processes. For example, blockchain has the potential to make supply chains less depended on paper documents. In the mid-term, business processes will be re engineered, rather than optimised. This will impact traditional business models and create even more value. One can ask why a document is still needed for a certain process. Last, we expect entire new markets and business models to be created, similar to how the internet created social media and e-commerce.”
8. Aba Schubert, CEO of Dorae, Inc
“I think the future will play out something like this: some of the large verticals will develop their own systems and seek to have their counterparties adopt these systems, at least in their dealings with them. We see this already emerging with the likes of Walmart, Maersk, etc. However, most small and mid-sized supply chain participants will require blockchain enabled solutions that are independent in nature.”
9. John Thielens, CTO of Cleo
“Supply chain processes are vital to the participants, so there is an odd mix of conservatism (reluctance to disrupt what’s working) and innovation (looking for differentiation and new opportunities through technology). So, while established supply chain technologies won’t be completely displaced by blockchain, the pressure to innovate and adopt is inexorable. Blockchain adoption will start with blockchain-powered solutions, evangelized by those with strong control over an ecosystem. But ultimately, true distributed blockchains will appear as communities coalesce and standardize around issues where the leverage of the ecosystem warrants the effort.”
10. Daniel Stanton, President of SecureMarking, Inc.
“In the next few years, blockchain is likely to disrupt a lot of supply chain information systems. If you think about the challenges that we face in configuring systems and tracking data about our internal supply chain – the complexity is bewildering. When you layer on the challenge of exchanging data with all of our suppliers and customers – and all of their complex systems – the information flows are mind boggling. Blockchain has the potential to radically simplify the collection and sharing of this data, while building in data security and providing a higher level of trust in the data.”
11. Ralph Rio, Vice President at ARC Advisory Group
“There is little doubt that blockchain will gain traction in supply chain management. Just need time to build knowledge, acceptance and broad adoption. There is little benefit for a first mover, but a big benefit to joining a crowd. The more successful PoCs have market leading firms initiating the program which provides the credibility that makes recruiting other members easier.”
12. William Crane, CEO and Founder of IndustryStar
“Blockchain has a bright future in supply chain management, it will likely not be completely upward and to the right but a series of two steps forward and one step back. The underlying technology has great promise, it will take smart people, forward thinking businesses and the right partners to blend the technology in the right ways to solve real world business problems.”
13. Srinivasan Sriram, CEO and Founder of Skuchain
14. Grant Blaisdell, Co Founder of Coinfirm
“As more and more Retail and FMCG consumers, vendors are adopting cryptocurrencies this will be a key area for companies to lookout for in order to innovate and provide unique customer experience. This will be an interesting development to watch out for as millennials and Gen Z consumers are attracted towards the cryptocurrencies and major banks are exploring this too. The future is full of unknown opportunities.”
15. Scott Carlson, Head of Blockchain Security at Kudelski Security
Consumers are seeking more data on the partners, processes and source of goods; merchants are seeking new deals that may happen with untrusted entities in untrusted locations. Blockchain has the ability to deliver on any area requiring multi-party trust at its core.”
16. Ian Kane, COO and Founder of Ternio
“Blockchain is nascent technology and we are just starting to see the value of its application. It can be transparency of supply chains, security of data, or real time compensation for supply chain members. In my opinion, the applications are numerous and we’re only in the early days of understanding blockchain’s long term value.”
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