This week, Chinese ecommerce business JD.com, which Walmart has a 12.1% stake in, announced it is building a traceability system with over 30 brand owners on its blockchain platform.
When complete, the system will enable customers to trace and review information about a product’s journey, including when and where it has been processed, stored, sold and delivered. The initiative will focus on brands and products that are susceptible to counterfeiting as well as fresh produce, where chain of custody and product origin are of obvious interest to consumers.
Full chain traceability, enabled by blockchain and IoT technologies, represents a significant leap forward for brands looking to engage more deeply with consumers. This, combined with direct supply chain benefits means blockchain has the potential to add value on two fronts – making it a particularly appealing prospect.
We’ve been tracking the development of blockchain-enabled solutions this year, and considerable progress has been made by a few businesses. But we are in the exploratory phase and blockchain is still an esoteric concept for many. With that in mind, I thought I’d look at why, in my opinion, blockchain has so much potential, and how it might be used in the food and grocery supply chain.
What is a blockchain?
A decentralised, distributed digital ledger – the key words here are “decentralised” and “distributed”, meaning individuals in the blockchain see the same information.
Why is it useful?
Firstly, it can be accessed by anyone with permissions at the touch of a button and secondly, once distributed, it’s extremely difficult to forge or corrupt. Information is not held by any single entity and therefore there is no single point of failure. Data is automatically reconciled at intervals ensuring consistency and continuity across the blockchain.
Where’s the supply chain value?
Imagine IoT technologies automatically capturing and transmitting information relating to a product’s journey, including timestamps, temperature, carriers etc. to a blockchain, making previously disparate or invisible details visible to all key stakeholders – including consumers.
This is the type of solution being explored by JD.com and Walmart among others.
Blockchain is still some way from full commercialisation, but with clear potential to add value to both businesses and consumers, it won’t be too long before we begin to see it deployed more widely.
Interested in learning more about blockchain? Check out this report on Walmart’s initiative.
Supply Chain Insight Manager