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We first heard about the potential of blockchain in supply chains several years ago, and almost immediately were thrown into a cycle of hype and hope for what they could do to us, followed by a “trough of disillusionment” when nothing moved as fast as we had wanted. But that doesn’t mean startups, corporations, and consortia haven’t been quietly working to advance the technology and pushing to apply it in ways we might not expect.
Upgrade old critical technology
A non-profit consortium, Base Protocol, has been working on what they call “base” enterprise systems. By layering on the Ethereum blockchain, enterprise ERPs like SAP can communicate in a unified way, enabling cross-company and cross-company communication. Coca Cola is currently testing this in its North American bottling operations and is looking to improve transparency throughout the bottling supply chain.
Baseline Protocol is also working to modernize EDI, a technology that has been around since the 1940s, to connect disparate systems for things like ordering, invoicing, inventory tracking and more. Baseline is backed by Microsoft, Consensys, EY and Accenture.
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Bringing government into the future
A Slovenia-based startup, CargoX, recently announced an agreement with the Egyptian government to help modernize customs procedures for ocean freight in the country. Propelled into the public eye by the unprecedented mess in the Suez Canal in 2021, most people are unaware that the Egyptian government has undertaken one of the most significant modernizations of port procedures in the world since 2019. With COVID- 19 making ripples throughout the industry, all the modernization and improvement measures have helped Egypt offset many problems that others have faced.
CargoX platform facilitates customs procedures by providing Advance Cargo Manifestation technology to Egypt, aiming to reduce time spent in customs, money spent on physical documentation and unlock automation and efficiency general thanks to the Ethereum blockchain. Reported savings include a reduction in cargo release time from 29 days to 9 days, a reduction in compliance costs from $600 to $165, and an overall reduction in detention and warehousing costs. CargoX is also known for its blockchain-based digital waybill documentation for shippers, which saves time and money.
Durability and traceability of materials
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have teamed up to launch a cotton traceability project in addition to the Ethereum blockchain . With the aim of increasing visibility and benefiting small family farmers in Latin America, the project is designed to show how small farmers can come together and use technology to not only improve the way they operate and engage in the global market, but also to improve their lives. and their livelihoods in the process.
With cotton notoriously difficult to trace back to origin, this offers garment manufacturers the ability to verify not only the sustainability of their supply chains, but also monitoring and auditing to prove fair trade claims to consumers. consumers and governments.
Where do we go from here?
Blockchain in the supply chain was a buzz phrase in 2017 and 2018, but it quickly transitioned into one that generated prying eyes at industry trade shows. Breaking through this rapid boom and bust cycle, startups neck and neck with grindstone startups continued to grow in both public and private as blockchain infrastructure continued to grow to support their goals. Paul Brody, Global Blockchain Lead at EY, echoes this sentiment, saying that while Blockchain alone does not solve the supply chain, it does provide a clear and open communication system that was sorely lacking in the past.
Additionally, enterprise-grade systems have generally not been very user-friendly or accessible to small and medium-sized businesses. ERPs, TMSs and WMSs are notoriously difficult to set up and cost out of reach not only for purchase, but also for long-term maintenance. Typically, new enterprise software implementations will cost millions and require the hiring of consultants, as well as in-house employees.
Open access and open source systems like Ethereum enable inclusivity in building supply chain applications that can be used by businesses of all sizes, at a cost that scales with their business; not one that has a high barrier to entry like today’s ERPs.
Fast forward to 2022, and startups have emerged from disillusionment, down the “slope of enlightenment” as Gartner calls it, and now have growing, verifiable use cases around the world. Blockchain, especially public chains like the Ethereum network, is now showing its true potential by becoming the “HTTP” of supply chains.
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