7 takeaways from the Blockchain Supply Chain Summit

I had the privilege of presenting at the 2nd Annual Blockchain Supply Chain Summit at the Supply and Value Chain Center at the Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois, on April 9–10, 2019.

The summit brought together executives and technical leaders from leading brands and logistics companies who are driving blockchain adoption within the supply chain. They came together to share their experiences and collaborate on the use of blockchain to transform fundamental relationships and interactions throughout global supply chains and to build value chains for their customers.

Think big, start small and go fast. Tomorrow’s winners are starting to build and shape ecosystems today.

Here are my top 7 take-aways from the Blockchain Supply Chain Summit:

1. Blockchain can be applied and build value in numerous ways throughout the supply chain. Multiple case studies were covered, including:

  - Truck fleet traceability

  - Sustainability with clean fuel

  - Provenance for pharma, fashion, and high-value goods

  - Sustainability in sourcing and production

  - Global trade, automotive parts supply chain

  - Manufacturing industry parts supply, avoiding counterfeit

  - Food supply chain.

2. Companies are looking for more than just pilots and proofs of concept. They want to know whether blockchain can scale to real-world solutions, moving from hype to maturity, from pilots to production and networks that are adopted by a broader community with large transaction volumes. Many small- and medium-sized businesses are waiting to see.

3. The value of blockchain platforms is clear. Supply chain customers recognize they don’t need to start their blockchain efforts from scratch by creating code to transact on the ledger. Instead, they can take advantage of established ecosystems by leveraging blockchain platforms that offer the ability to connect to existing systems via APIs.

4. Blockchain is impacting legal and regulatory interactions. Government agencies and legal firms continue to examine the ways in which existing laws apply to blockchain systems, including authenticity and the evidentiary value of distributed ledger records. There are also legal discussions around the transfer of title and bills of lading. Blockchain is changing the way disputes with suppliers, providers, and customers can be handled as well as having an impact on interactions with and enforcement by regulatory agencies.

5. Industry standards are gaining importance. Partners understand the need for standards in supply chain and blockchain. Examples include GS1 identity standards (which provide basic building blocks related to identification and data capture), BiTA and UN-CEFACT. The blockchain open source implementations Hyperledger Fabric was highlighted and recommended by many organizations as an "enterprise-grade” blockchain, which supports permissioned blockchains

6. There are some challenges in blockchain adoption. Summit participants from small- and medium-sized businesses in particular cited concerns they had about adopting blockchain for their supply chains. This included:

  - Process – A new system means new and different processes, which could mean a lack of harmonization and questions around legal jurisdiction and privacy

  - Technology – Given there are various distributed ledger technology (DLT) providers, there are interoperability concerns

  - Ecosystem – There are different motivations and priorities for different participants within the ecosystem

7. Tactics and recommendations: In order to tackle these challenges, the experts at the summit shared the following advice for getting started with blockchain and getting it incorporated into your supply chain transformation:

  - Blockchain is an example of a technology that should not be applied for technology’s sake. You need to identify scenarios in which blockchain can transform your business processes, making the data used in those processes more available, transparent, immediate and secure. Look for improved efficiency on compliance, filing, regulatory and inspections scenarios.

  - You don’t have to start from scratch and do it all by yourself. Solutions that use blockchain and address big industry and network challenges already exist. Research existing blockchain networks and platforms that can provide enterprise-grade blockchain solutions and quick time-to-value for your business. Find one that works for you, and join.

  - Think big, start small and go fast. Tomorrow’s winners are starting to build and shape ecosystems today.

The 2nd Annual Blockchain Supply Chain Summit reinforced the role of blockchain in bringing transparency, traceability, and security to supply chains. It also focused on building value chains by allowing partners to get the product to the end customer in the most efficient and cost-effective manner while supporting provenance and increasing consumer trust.

Where are you in your journey to transform your supply chain with blockchain? Get in touch.

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