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Will blockchain transform the supply chain in 2019?

Date: 22 January 2019

What is blockchain technology?

Invented in 2008, blockchain technology is a distributed database which contains records of digital information that is very difficult to tamper with. It’s a permanent, public record of a chain of transactions, linked using cryptography, accessible to many users who can view and add data. Considered secure by design, it is resistant to modification, meaning that records cannot be retroactively changed or deleted.

Blockchain represents a huge opportunity for supply chain, particularly in how complex inventory demands are managed.

According to Paul Brody at EY, “The use cases for this new way of working are compelling. At its most basic level, the core logic of blockchains means that no piece of inventory can exist in the same place twice. Move a product from finished goods to in-transit, and that transaction status will be updated for everyone, everywhere, within minutes, with full traceability back to the point of origin.”

The benefits of blockchain for supply chain management

Blockchain is efficient and scalable. It can positively impact everything from warehousing to delivery to payment. Blockchain technology could dramatically decrease human error, delays and cost in the following areas:

  • Keeping track of transfer of products between supply chain nodes
  • Provenance and traceability e.g. with food certifications
  • Tracking orders, receipts, shipment notifications in real time - replacing outdated methods such as phone, fax and email
  • Assigning serial numbers, RFID or digital tags to products
  • Eliminating paperwork
  • Smarter contracting, with the system automatically rejecting any invoice submitted for an unfulfilled contract
  • Improving trust between organisations, stakeholders, business partners and consumers
  • Reducing data redundancy

With the promise of better security, transparency and cost-effectiveness, the stage is set for blockchain innovators to revolutionise the supply chain industry in a short space of time.

Blockchain isn’t the future: it’s the present

Blockchain is no longer just a future possibility: it’s in play right now, and evolving fast. More and more key companies are investing their research and development resources in this new technology which will ultimately transform supply chain (and as a result, the bottom line).

This means that small and medium enterprises will have to leverage their agility and innovation in order to keep up, but one thing is for certain: investing in blockchain talent and capability in your organisation now will be a short-term sacrifice for long-term gains. Those who don’t or can’t innovate in this area risk being left behind as their competitors significantly reduce operational costs.

Blockchain skills shortage drives fierce competition among employers

We are already seeing the beginnings of a talent war over blockchain talent, which looks set to continue through 2019. Banks are likely to be a significant source of talent for supply chain heads looking for blockchain headcount, since the financial services sector is already making use of blockchain technology.

Tech companies like Google and Microsoft are offering much higher salaries to tempt top-tier talent away from the banks, so smaller firms with less well-known brands will have to be prepared to meet high salary demands. In addition, in this competitive climate, many firms are increasing their benefits offering, and implementing workplace culture strategies in order to acquire top blockchain talent for their supply chain teams.

Third party players with blockchain solutions an alternative for smaller firms?

Meanwhile, there will likely be supply chain management startups and consultancies offering blockchain solutions for firms that can’t build capability from the ground up internally. These businesses will also be competing for talent, meaning that firms will need to be on the lookout not just for corporate competitors, but also competitors within the startup ecosystem.

Stakeholder buy-in may also be required in order to move forward with significant blockchain projects, so communication, persuasion and stakeholder management in team members who also have the technical knowledge will be highly valuable. Existing supply chain team members will need to be prepared for significant disruption; therefore these ‘soft skills’ such as change management and communication will likely be in-demand as a result.

What will happen with existing supply chain roles?

While many are concerned with the ramifications for the present supply chain talent pool, blockchain creates opportunities for teams to reduce administration, freeing up talent to focus on strategy, tactics, analysis, partnerships and innovation. The opportunity is there for supply chain roles to evolve alongside the technology, rather than getting left behind.

If you need to start building blockchain capacity in your organisation, contact us today to discuss the skills and knowledge you’re looking for along with the salary expectations of top blockchain talent.

If you are working in this area and looking for new opportunity, share your most updated CV to us. Our consultant will contact you shortly.