Removing complexity from global supply chains, blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) can facilitate greater trust and transparency among stakeholders and customers, helping to support the automation of administrative and commercial processes. Smart contract concepts and the potential adoption of cryptocurrency as a viable payment will also create opportunities for new services and business models in logistics.
Key Developments & Implications
Given the inherent fragmentation and heterogeneity of global supply chains, the multitude of actors involved in global shipping, the need for transparency of financial flows, information flows, and material flows, it is no surprise that supply chain leaders have a strong interest in blockchain. The promise is enticing –having a single system that is accessible to all parties involved in a supply chain transaction which carries and stores information immutably by design.
Traceability and transparency reflect the market’s need for a single source of truth in the supply chain, from a raw material’s provenance to a product’s end of life. According to a deep-dive analysis of the annual Blockchain 50 list in February 2020, product traceability throughout production and the supply chain is the primary use case for blockchain-adopting industry giants across multiple industry sectors.
The automation of commercial processes through blockchain-based smart contracts has streamlined service and payment transactions while reducing errors in the back office. When pre-determined service level agreement criteria are met (e.g., delivering spare parts in good condition to a Shanghai warehouse by noon), smart contracts allow procedures to self-execute (e.g., full, subtracted, and even split payment) without needing a human to actively participate. The use of blockchain-based smart contracts is currently being expanded and explored for processes beyond payment and cross-border customs documentation, including cargo handling and tracing, escrow agent audits, and contractor reputation scoring.
Cryptocurrency as an alternate form of payment has been the historic breakout use case of blockchain technology. While volatility is still a concern, recent announcements and speculations of technology giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google each releasing their own digital currencies in the next couple of years may fuel widespread consumer adoption once implemented. Just like the debit, credit, and PayPal methods of payment that precede them, cryptocurrencies are a viable payment method for logistics products and services. Also, supplementary acceptance may strengthen logistics providers’ competitiveness and further their integration in the digital consumer world.
Topics Covered in the Report
- Understanding blockchain
- Blockchain examples across industries
- Blockchain in logistics
Talk to an Expert
Head of Innovation Americas
DHL Americas Innovation Center
Gina Chung leads the research and innovation activities of DHL and is in charge of the DHL Americas Innovation Center: a state-of-the-art platform to engage startups and industries on the future of logistics. Since 2012, she has shaped DHL’s global innovation agenda by driving a portfolio of projects focused on the rapid testing and adoption of technologies such as collaborative robotics and artificial intelligence across DHL’s operations.
Prior to her current role, she also led the development of DHL’s trend research series including co-authoring publications such as IoT in Logistics together with Cisco and the DHL Logistics Trend Radar. Gina is based in Chicago and holds two degrees from the University of Auckland.