Implementing Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology creates a global and trustworthy history of a product—from transaction to production to consumption. It has the potential to revolutionize workflows across international borders, empowering an automated, connected supply chain with simplicity and traceability.

1. Flip your thinking. Many consider blockchain a solution seeking a problem. It’s actually the answer to an array of logistics challenges, particularly for food and port clearance.

2. Look at the time saved. Goods can sit in port clearance anywhere from one to seven days. Blockchain decreases this to hours, with a guaranteed clearance date. This reduces time to sell and enables just-in-time delivery.

3. Consider complexity. Goods often get stuck in clearance due to incomplete or missing documentation. Blockchain creates a digital trail that can be fixed or recreated seamlessly at any point in transit.

4. Know your variables. What is the possibility of goods being lost, damaged, or stolen? Similar to produce freshness, we must guarantee the quality of other goods, such as consumer electronics. Using IoT technology, such as sensors and RFID, blockchain provides real-time visibility to assure goods are where and as they should be.

5. Keep produce fresh. Blockchain assures freshness by drastically decreasing transit time and can eliminate the spread of foodborne illness. Blockchain can trace every machine and hand that touched produce—from farm, to manufacturer, to carrier, to store. It is possible to pinpoint the source of contamination within hours.

6. Find the right technology partners. Blockchain isn’t an operational platform. It’s a record-keeping system that spans enterprise resource planning systems, warehouse management systems (WMS), transportation management systems (TMS), and order management. Look for WMS and TMS that store and interpret data from beginning to end. These solutions should be flexible enough to adapt your unique workflow.

7. Think about dock availability. Pickup can’t be scheduled until goods pass clearance. Blockchain makes it possible to predict this timeframe, with carriers receiving notification from the port. This optimizes carrier scheduling while expanding dock capacity.

8. Understand the players. The value of blockchain is proportional to participation across the industry, both horizontal and vertical. Using perishable foods as an example, each of the supplying farms, manufacturers, shippers, warehouses, and stores must be on board and willing to foot the updated workflow costs.

9. Weigh costs. Does implementing blockchain justify the overhead costs? Consider the cost of upgrading the workflow. This includes purchasing relevant software and finding a blockchain platform provider. Furthermore, the infrastructure must be updated with visibility technology, such as sensors inside facilities or outside on containers or trucks. Lastly, think about the time and effort needed to build the ecosystem.

10. Avoid limiting yourself to country vs. export-based inventory control. Expiration dates dictate the goods we ship in and out of country due to port clearance. Predictable clearance dates from blockchain overcome this to enable better inventory assignment for the best-possible shelf life of goods.

—Contributed by Sean Elliott, chief technology officer, HighJump

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