What is a Supply Chain?
A supply chain is the network of all the individuals, organizations, resources, activities and technology involved in the creation and sale of a product, from the delivery of source materials from the supplier to the manufacturer, through to its eventual delivery to the end user.
The supply chain segment involved with getting the finished product from the manufacturer to the consumer is known as the distribution channel.
Supply chain management is the oversight of materials, information, and finances as they move in a process from supplier to manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer.
This process has been deeply plagued with cases of incidents or illegal practices, such as exploitation or use of products not up to the market standard. This has affected the end products with news such as a major steel company that falsified inspection certificates that detailed the quality of aluminum and copper it sold.
This scandal is now reverberating through the global supply chain. News of a viral illness in Taiwan sent shock waves throughout the world when in 2008, a baby milk formula scandal occurred, where expired or spoiled formula was mass distributed leading to thousands of infants being admitted into medical care – of which, seven infants died.
The system architecture that operates and controls the supply chain networks are well over decades old and have undergone little to none updates in terms of security or transparency. Accessing data or information would take anywhere from days to months.
This is where blockchain technology could act as a paradigm shift in this field and process.
Blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, is an information-sharing technology that enables digital storage of records and data across a decentralized and distributed network of computers across the globe that is constantly updated and verifies data. These records are stored across the distributed ledger.
Once information is entered onto the blockchain, it cannot be deleted. Therefore, to tamper with data you would have to hack every computer on the global network which would require you to use unthinkable amounts of computational power.
Another multi-faceted application of blockchain is the complete transparency of data on the network – anyone, anywhere can access files within seconds and without prejudice.
This is what makes blockchain the perfect match for any sort of supply chain.
This is where Jessi Baker, Founder of Provenance, comes in. Provenance is a UK-based startup using blockchain to revolutionize supply chain transparency and product trust. They work with suppliers, brands, and certifiers to enable every product to come with an open, secure record of its journey and creation.
The main goal of Jessi Baker and Provenance is providing software that sets up to help businesses that produce and sell products by enabling them to share information regarding date of purchase, people, places, materials used, date of expiry, etc. This is to provide safety and transparency in the system.
“We were the first company to use blockchain for a non-financial purpose, so whilst we have been working with the technology for a number of years it is still nascent in many ways. That means that it can be expensive and few people or organizations have the capability to really make use of it. If you liken blockchain to the internet then you could say it has yet to have its ‘browser’ moment. The interface to exploring blockchains whether in an app or web page is still undeveloped and this is an important part of blockchain’s development – helping everyone understand this new way of storing and trusting data.
There is a range of limitations that are being worked on by the blockchain community at large. Among them are scalability (which currently leads to high transaction costs) and privacy. The good news is that those issues are not specific to supply chain use cases. They are a common goal for the ecosystem, and solutions start to emerge, such as sharding or zero-knowledge proofs.” -Jessi Baker, Founder, Provenance.