David Levy

@jlevel

Supply Chain and Blockchain — The companies linking them together

Having been working for VOLT, a last mile delivery platform based on blockchain, some time now, I have researched a lot about how blockchain can revolutionise the supply-chain and, quite frankly, how badly the supply-chain needs revolutionising.

This isn’t just about tracking cargo more efficiently, though that is a big consideration, it’s also about how to keep the costs down and increase transparency to the customer.

In the Transport industry, Billions of Dollars are tied up daily in financial disputes whilst invoices can take well over a month to be paid. So much time and money is wasted through unavoidable things like this I wanted to take a look at a few companies that are trying to make a difference by saving us time, money, the environment and maybe even our lives.

CargoX

The shipping/freight industry is one of the largest industries on the planet, handling over 80% of all goods traded globally. So some people may be surprised to know that a paper document is still relied upon as a crucial part of the industries receipt of shipment process.

A Bill of Landing (B/L) is a document that ensures both the importer has received the expected goods and the exporter has been paid. It is used to acknowledge the contents of any shipment and as either a receipt of the goods, proof of contract that the goods have been sold or as a title to the goods.

As you can imagine, taking into account the sheer volume being shipped around the world each day, this is a hugely time consuming and expensive task to continue doing by hand and paper. Using Smart Contracts, for their initial project CargoX have developed a protocol and platform based on the Ethereum blockchain to manage the B/L’s. Issuing these documents using blockchain can be instantaneous, ensures that they are tamper-proof and that they cannot be lost.

CargoX will save companies and consumers money and will increase the efficiency of the industry as a whole. Their platform will have further applications down the road too so they are a big one to watch in the industry.

FedEx

The FedEx Institute of Technology works alongside the research infrastructure of the University of Memphis to promote interdisciplinary research in emerging technologies. They recently announced a partnership with Good Shepherd Pharmacy to develop a new blockchain-based infrastructure to help cancer patients get medications.

There is a huge amount of unused medicine that, if retrieved, could be redistributed safely to others who need it. “In Tennessee alone, over $10 million worth of perfectly good prescription medication gets flushed down the toilet every year” said Phil Baker, the CEO of Good Shepherd Pharmacy “Blockchain is the solution for that problem.”

Earlier this year, before the announcement mentioned above, The CEO of FedEx, Fred Smith, said that blockchain is “the next frontier that’s going to completely change worldwide supply chains.” FedEx are very much looking to blockchain not only to streamline their own business but to make a difference elsewhere where it can have a positive impact on peoples lives.

Walmart and IBM

Last year IBM together with 9 other companies including Walmart began testing their blockchain based initiative, looking to be able to track food through its supply chain.

Named ‘The Food Trust Blockchain” their main goal is to improve the companies’ ability to trace food related outbreaks more quickly and to identify issues involved with the recall of certain produce from certain batches. Being able to trace a bad food source in a matter of seconds rather than days vastly improves the chances to limit how far the bad produce can reach and how long an outbreak can last for.

Earlier this year, Walmart announced that is able to use blockchain in its live produce business, helping track farm to table in an efficient and highly transparent way which will not only reduce costs and subsequently food prices but it also gives peace of mind to the consumer, who will know exactly what they are eating and where it has come from.

VOLT

While a same-day courier service isn’t a new phenomenon, same-day delivery in retail and from the high street is still a relatively new link in the supply-chain. Despite that, it is already a massive market with a vast amount of major companies spanning many industries already offering a same day service, at a premium for the consumer.

Volt Technology have built a decentralized same-day delivery platform based on blockchain to not only compete in the same-day market but to also compete with the next day market too.

By having delivery messengers work for themselves via the VOLT platform, packages, documents, food or merchandise can be delivered P2P with the middleman cut out almost completely.

Next day delivery typically uses the Hub and Spoke method, whereby same city/region deliveries would be sent to a central hub, probably outside the city, only to be delivered back to the same location the following day.

VOLT’s platform will mean the need for a central hub is completely negated which is great for the environment thanks to less space being taken up by sorting hubs and less traffic moving the packages around.

Using AI, VOLTs platform will also be able to offer new jobs to messengers already on a similar route or on the way back from where they are going, massively increasing efficiency.

By taking out the middlemen, VOLT’s service will be a cheaper than others out there, meaning independent businesses will be able to compete with some of the big boys and not have to lose out on profit to do so.

VOLT will use blockchain to secure both the messengers and consumers data, to make tracking packages more reliable and nearly instantaneous and to ensure an efficient process is in place that will benefit the environment and also society in general.

Conclusion

Blockchain is nearly limitless in terms of its applications but there are some areas where there is a clear and necessary need for the kind of change that blockchain can offer.

Logistics and the movement of goods is one of those areas and we are hopefully not far off seeing some of these applications in the real world making a difference.

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