It seems that no project management efforts in this new decade can ever move forward without needing to expect the unexpected.
The world’s way of shifting, changing and radicalising beneath our feet has made even the notion of business as usual a thing of the past – from global health crises and armed conflicts to climate change and labour shortages.
Supply chain management has been a task for the brave and the forward thinking, forced to leap from one unexpected global event to the next to circumvent those circumstances once thought unthinkable.
The result? Supply chain woes on seemingly every link of the value chain – from essentials and FMCG logistics, through to consumer electronics, technology, agriculture and more.
Neither upstream or downstream have been safe from disruption, and it’s clear that new strategies in supply chain data management are needed. While proactivity is all well and good, a revitalised approach demands releasing the old way of doing things.
The solution? Blockchain supply chain management systems – for security, accuracy and precision control.
Given that the two are so often mentioned in the same breath, it would be easy for even the most seasoned project management professionals to dismiss blockchain technology as the remit of cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
In truth, cryptocurrencies and blockchains are not two sides of the same Bitcoin, however much they appear to be. In fact, cryptocurrencies only use blockchain because the technology is secure, safe and accurate enough to fully digitally replicate the utility of cash.
Yet assuming that blockchain technology exists simply because of cryptocurrency is not accurate – the technology actually predates the likes of Bitcoin by several years. While the exchange of value has become blockchain technology’s most famous use case today, the systems that make blockchains work so well are actually perfectly suited to supply chain management.
Understanding the key concepts that make blockchain technology work makes seeing how it can be deployed in supply chain management that much simpler. Although often seen as complex and mysterious, blockchain technology is actually beautifully simple by design – although still requires coders with specialist developmental knowledge.
Put simply, blockchain technology strengthens data management because of how it compiles data. A block of data is connected to its predecessor in a chain – and each time a new block of data is added, the data in those previous blocks on the chain is locked permanently into the overall timeline that the blockchain represents.
Protected by hash encryption, blockchain technology is impossible to tamper with. It relies on automated and distributed validation methods that means that hackers cannot break into it – and even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to read what was inside it.
Similarly, blockchain technology provides a timeline of events by its very nature, and is transparent for all to see. This means that, in the world of project management, if a mistake or challenge arises later, your blockchain functions as a log of events and transactions that will enable users to rapidly identify the precise moment that things went wrong – and move to prevent that happening again.
Supply chain management has, on the whole, done an admirable job in embracing the digital in today’s modern operational climate. In terms of tracking, tracing and keeping on top of logistics, great strides have been made thanks to modern technology and data management.
However – much like the glut of scheduling software, work from home tools and video conferencing apps that sprang into being in the springtime of 2020 – the modern logistics market is saturated with supply chain management tools and software.
This is not necessarily a bad thing at first glance – variety in solutions makes for a healthy and active market. However, our research has shown that 80% of project management professionals and supply chain business leaders believe that inefficiencies and errors continue occurring today because these platforms and tools don’t effectively interact one with another.
Compounding this issue is the understandable but often misguided penchant for application-centric thinking in much of the industry. It, again, makes sense on a surface level – you see a problem, and you go and source an application or tool that remedies it.
Yet a far more effective and permanent solution to rising supply chain management issues is to adopt a data-centric mindset instead. How many times should a business have to invest in yet another platform to remedy the complications in data management brought on by the last software they bought?
What if we all simply redefined how we look at data in project management for the supply chain overall? This is where blockchain technology offers a real and proven alternative.
When you consider the complications facing supply chains in every industry today, you cannot help but realise that there are many flaws that have been so long-standing as to almost be taken for granted.
Take counterfeiting, for example. As counterfeit and pirated goods continue to rise, the blame is always apportioned on supply chain management professionals for not seeing it coming – despite the incredible complexity in logistics that goes into creating even the simplest products today.
Retailers too big and busy to notice or care they are helping traffic counterfeit goods are unwittingly contributing to not only the erosion of consumer trust and brand integrity, but also the terrifying health risks of counterfeit products as well.
Conversely, blockchain technology, when deployed in supply chain management, locks every movement and change of hands of a given raw material, component or finished product in every step of its manufacturing and distribution journey.
Because blockchain systems do not rely on project management or human interactions to update data, there is no room for foul play – only flawless mechanical precision with full traceability.
Find out counterfeit goods are still making their way into the supply chain? The blockchain gives you a complete timeline of every product’s journey. A trained data management professional can sift through that timeline, identify where any foul play has arisen, and have the appropriate conversation with suppliers or vendors who are not playing by the rules – backed by evidence.
The permanence of blockchain technology is what makes it so appealing for utilisation in supply chain management. While its security and streamlining of processes is welcome, the immutable timeline created by each block being added to the chain only solidifies the resilience and agility in every business choosing to use it.
Product traceability is one advantage of blockchain data management in supply chains – but so is document digitisation and management too. By adding documents to the blockchain, not only do they become impossible to tamper with or argue over later – but retrieving them is easy, due to the chronological way in which blockchain data is stored.
In other words, if management signed a large and lucrative invoice in July, searching back to the appropriate block in July is all that’s needed. What’s more, any further disagreements or disputes can be nipped in the bud – the document is locked into the blockchain with all its signatures intact. A deal is a deal, after all.
Naturally, this has a similar effect for auditing and compliance purposes. Blockchain data management makes it easy to rapidly find and present data and documentation on request – and because it’s impervious to hacking and changing later, those audits are as secure as can be. No other data management system can attain that level of accuracy and precision.
Sounds like a lot of administration and hard work? Not so much. Blockchain technology is, by design, an automated and trustless data management ecosystem. Project management professionals can focus on the big picture, rather than the nitty gritty, thanks to blockchain innovations such as smart contracts – happenings that are triggered by events in the blockchain, without human intervention and without the need of an arbiter or third party.
There is much to be said of delegation – and in a world as busy as ours, one might well argue it is simply impossible to function without it.
The sheer growth of SaaS startups and the overarching service economy proves that every industry needs assistance in one aspect of business or another – yet as any leader can attest, complications invariably arise whenever any element of project management is undertaken anywhere but in-house.
Using blockchain technology, supply chain management becomes much more automated, accurate and transparent – without requiring any added workload, and often actively decreasing it.
This means that project management professionals in the supply chain sector are now empowered to analyse if their ongoing third party providers for data management and associated tasks are necessary – versus a secure and automatic blockchain system that has all the functionality and none of the hassle.
With enhanced transparency negating any miscommunications that arise from misreading data or inaccurate reporting, blockchain solutions in supply chain management also allow full traceability of every detail of every journey.
Slimming down the amount of outsourcing active within a given organisation today likewise reduces the number of points of failure that could disrupt successful supply chain processes.
This also includes assets and supply chain equipment too. By encoding data management best practices into the blockchain, a given asset’s lifecycle can be fully traced, recorded and appropriately reviewed whenever the conversation arises about investment plans or vehicle fleet growth.
Furthermore, with this level of enhanced data management working for you in-house, your organisation can reach decisions along these lines more rapidly and with greater confidence – without being bogged down in coordinating third parties for every business decision.
As we have touched on throughout our article, there simply are not any industries active in the world today whose supply chain management practices haven’t been taken to task by the challenges facing our planet.
Overcoming these obstacles means not only reconfiguring our thinking, but also being prepared to go back to basics and redefine our data management processes with an entirely new technology – the blockchain.
Just as the challenges of the modern economic climate affect every industry, so too does blockchain supply chain management cover every industry in operation today.
Food and beverage manufacturers are able to more effectively track, trace and responsibly source the ingredients and raw materials that go into their products using blockchain supply chain management. This mitigates the expenses of costly product recalls and unsafe ingredients entering the human food chain – as well as guaranteeing the transparency and traceability that modern consumers crave.
Pharmaceutical companies, whose products are delicate and in demand enough to require pinpoint granular precision and no tolerance for failure or counterfeiting, are able to use blockchain supply chain management to guarantee the traceability and integrity of everything being used in every drug they market. Likewise, disruptions and stolen shipments of in-demand medicine can be nipped in the bud, enhancing both control of product and public health worldwide.
Luxury goods and electronics manufacturers are able to use blockchain supply chain management technology to completely oversee the sourcing of safe raw materials – as well as guarantee that the products that make their way to market are genuine.
And from a broader perspective, logistics organisations are able to more effectively collaborate and streamline processes thanks to both the accuracy and integrity of the data on the blockchain – as well as the transparency and timekeeping capabilities that it promises.
Blockchain technology enhances supply chain management in so many ways – yet we are now only at the first few stages of its widespread industrial adoption.
With our product Brandzledger, we have developed an industry defining blockchain data management solution that is able to adapt to – and radically enhance – the project management and supply chain versatility of businesses in every industry in the world.
Are you ready for the next big CHAINge?
+39 02 45391390
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