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Blockchain: The Future of Supply Chain

Date: 31 May 2018

Supply chains are built on trust. It used to be possible to build personal relationships with the various links in a supply chain, but as trade becomes global and more complex, this is harder and harder to achieve.

A weak link in the supply chain, such as a corrupt, unethical or incompetent partner, can rapidly cause reputational damage, compromised quality to the consumer, massive product recall, slumping profits to name but a few effects. Many industry experts are looking to blockchain to bring transparency and trust to the supply chain, along with improved efficiency and flexibility. How will this trend impact attracting exceptional and niche supply chain talent?

A tamper-resistant trail of transactions
Most modern consumer products are the end result of a process involving many organisations, from farmers or miners harvesting raw materials to factories producing components and logistics firms transporting goods.

The records generated by all these different players will be spread across a range of systems in multiple locations, making it challenging to obtain a clear picture. It is also possible that some records could be inaccurate or falsified.

Blockchain technology uses a distributed database in which information is held and accessible to multiple users, but they are unable to tamper with it. Every transaction is recorded on a digital ledger, linked to events before and after it. There is no single authority controlling the chain, making it much more transparent and trustworthy.

Cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum or Bitcoin are built on blockchain technology, but the concept is now moving far beyond payment systems and into the mainstream of business processes.

How companies are deploying blockchain
Businesses are developing ways to utilise blockchain to improve their supply chain processes. For example, e-commerce giant Alibaba has launched a blockchain initiative which uses product tagging and QR codes to authenticate, verify, record and report on products throughout the shipping process.[1]

Walmart has teamed up with IBM, JD.com and Tsinghua University to develop a similar technology to track products, so products can be scanned to reveal where they came from and where they should be stored. Recent high-profile cases highlighted the risks of food fraud in the extended supply chain; a study by PwC found that 40% of food companies would find food fraud hard to detect with current methods and 39% say their products are easy to counterfeit.[2] Blockchain can help to overcome this challenge.

There are many more examples of blockchain deployments, from shipping company Maersk using the technology to manage cargo and share information with customs authorities, or FedEx exploring ways to resolve customer disputes using the distributed ledger.[3]

What does adoption of blockchain mean for recruitment?
Adoption of blockchain is not something that can be implemented overnight. Most companies exploring this territory establish Project Management Offices (PMOs) to grow and develop initiatives. These teams require individuals with strong leadership skills and the ability to grow an initiative from the ground up quickly, as well as in-depth knowledge of blockchain technology.

Typically, recruits for PMO positions where supply chain digital transformation is top or high priority, have experience in supply chain consulting, with focus on systems transformation or have held mid to high-level roles in the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) function; where they have worked very closely with supply chain (particularly external partners) in S&OP and IT project management. Candidates will need to show a developed and in-depth understanding of supply chains, business and supplier priorities including the IT systems that support them.

As with the introduction of any technology initiative, implementation of blockchain involves cultural change within an organisation. “Candidates generally look for roles with a high level of autonomy in how they can drive forward change and shape business operations.” says Jamahl Safo-Antwi, Principal Consultant at DSJ Global, “Change management is notoriously difficult regardless of the focus/size so even though transforming the entire way supply chain data and transactions are handled is exciting for top, niche, cross-functional talent and greater supply chain accountability, it will require an even greater level of ‘free reign’ from businesses than previously seen to enable Blockchain/Digital Supply Chain PMOs to operate at maximum speed and prevent delayed communications and results across the E2E supply chain.”

Does blockchain spell the end of traditional supply chain roles?
There is no doubt that blockchain has the potential to be a major disruptive force in supply chains. However, Matthew Wood, Head of DSJ Global, sees that the adoption of the technology will have a positive outcome: “There is a fear that traditional skill sets in procurement and the supply chain could be made redundant by blockchain and automation.

“It’s certainly a shifting landscape, but automation of low-level transactional work actually represents an opportunity for skilled candidates to find more time to do the work that delivers real value. We see a bright future for supply chain professionals with strengths in innovation and strategic development.”

Whether you’re a candidate looking to take your next step or you’re searching for top talent to drive forward change in your business, contact the DSJ Global team today.



[1] http://www.thedrum.com/news/2018/04/30/alibaba-launches-blockchain-technology-improve-supply-chain-integrity-and-enhance

[2] http://www.thedrum.com/news/2018/04/30/alibaba-launches-blockchain-technology-improve-supply-chain-integrity-and-enhance

[3] https://www.techrepublic.com/article/5-companies-using-blockchain-to-drive-their-supply-chain/