New supply chain technology breakthroughs are easier to discuss and speculate about than to actually implement. No matter how much hype and attention a cutting-edge system gets before its widespread deployment, the actual moment of truth comes when companies implement such projects on a large scale. Either the promotion was warranted and businesses reap tangible benefits, or the hype bubble begins to deflate. That moment of truth is approaching for blockchain systems.
The discussion of blockchain as a potential logistics tool has been deafening, and it's easy to see the abstract benefits. Ever since blockchain systems rose to prominence as the technology behind cryptocurrencies, leaders have been pondering ways to make these distributed ledgers into tamper-resistant and consistent systems for supply chain data exchange. Now, it's time for pilot projects to turn that potential into real results.
IBM and Maersk begin their collaboration
According to VentureBeat, IBM and shipping company Maersk have recently joined forces to launch a global logistics solution based around a blockchain ledger. The tech company and ship operator already have over 94 partner organizations signed up for their program. The end goal of the project is to inject more visible data and innovative thinking into global trade. Transactions in the nautical shipping market will be handled through distributed information, potentially allowing fast and accurate data exchanges.
Many kinds of stakeholders related to the supply chain have signed on to become partners in the IBM and Maersk project, according to VentureBeat. This kind of widespread participation will be necessary for the solution to deliver maximum potential value. After all, if some elements of transactions are still being handled by conventional data interchange methods, the speed gains will be necessarily curtailed.
To that end, shipping companies have signed on, along with freight forwarding businesses, customs departments, port authorities and logistics partners that handle ground-based transportation. When all these parties have instant access to consistent, shared documentation - and real-time data coming in from internet of things sensors - moving goods from one location to another becomes a smoother and more automatic process. Hold-ups due to inefficient data exchanges could be excised from the supply chain.
With technology reaching a peak of hype and excitement - as blockchain systems are doing now - it's natural for many different projects to spring up at once. FreightTrust is running its own blockchain-based shipping solution, designed to help companies keep track of hazardous materials or other items that need long-lasting documentation. With many companies signing on to the project, the data will remain consistent as materials move from production to storage and use.
The solution has already been implemented by some organizations, and FreightTrust recently expanded it to any organization that wants to use it. The earliest user of the system makes solid explosives, which need accurate documentation that will last for years. The documentation stored in the blockchain ledger will ideally give companies the visibility and consistency they need to stay safe and compliant with applicable regulations for as long as their products are stored. The next step will involve getting new organizations signed up for the application.