To create efficient data communication among partners and vendors, major international shippers, forwarders, carriers and others turn to blockchain technology to improve processes. Blockchain in logistics helps remove redundancies while creating greater data transparency.
Blockchain technology is not new. It first appeared when cryptocurrencies exploded onto the scene almost two decades ago. Then, traditional financial institutions started using the technology, but it has only recently begun to move into industries such as manufacturing and healthcare. For a majority of 3PLs, using blockchain logistics in their operations is new and there is still much to learn about its applications.
So, how does blockchain logistics work?
If you are unfamiliar with this technology, blockchain consists of using organized distributive ledgers, which are digital file systems containing data that may consist of contracts, transactions, records, and communication. Each ledger is placed sequentially. As data moves through each ledger or “block,” authorized users can access the data, modify it, and track changes.
When it comes to blockchain in logistics, the same principals and processes apply. Companies create an abundance of data from inventory management, contracts, invoicing, payments, and shipping operations. This data is placed into the blockchain to offer better transparency during the supply chain process.
For example, warehouse personnel may track products that arrive, are stocked, and placed onto trucks for delivery. Every time a barcode is scanned or an order is filled, this data is placed into the blockchain warehouse network for easier access. If a problem occurs with a shipment, the information in the blockchain can indicate where and when the problem occurred in order to settle any disputes.
How Shippers Use Blockchain
Blockchain technology in logistics goes beyond just warehouse operations. Any logistical process that involves a transaction or creates a record could have the data placed into the distributive ledger blocks. For shippers, the blockchain helps simplify processes that are normally hectic due to the number of parties involved in the shipment. A shipper may use the blockchain to keep track of each contract that they have with manufacturers, suppliers, 3PL companies, warehouses, distribution centers, and fleet carriers.
The blockchain can outline the responsibilities that each party has with the shipment of goods. With each step in the process, the specific company completes its contractual obligations as its documents and other data are uploaded to the blockchain. This data may consist of bill of materials (BOM), order numbers, packing lists, bill of lading, delivery signatures, routing instructions, and delivery receipts. Other information such as barcodes, storage/shipping temperatures, packaging specifications, and batch numbers may also become part of the blockchain.
When each process is completed by the designated party, the shipper can have the blockchain automatically transmit payment at the completion of the contract. If problems arise with the shipment, the fleet carrier or 3PL can easily update the blockchain with this data, so shippers can understand these issues in real-time and implement the right logistical solutions. With blockchain technology, the shipper always knows the progress of their products throughout the supply chain.
Benefits of Blockchain in Logistics
The benefits of blockchain technology largely depend on how the shipper uses the available data. Some benefits may include:
- Easier Freight Tracking: With blockchain technology in place, companies can easily see where the freight is during the logistical process. They can track when shipments arrive and leave warehouses, as well as when they reach destinations.
- Transparency and Accountability: The blockchain allows various links in the chain to understand their roles in the logistical process. This tactic helps build accountability for all involved parties. Additionally, if a problem arises, the blockchain identifies where the failure occurred in the supply chain and who may be at fault.
- Enhanced Security: Blockchain technology typically has solid authentication and verification methods to prevent unauthorized users from harvesting or changing data. In addition, the technology tracks all changes to data that authorized parties make.
How Blockchain Impacts Logistics
Blockchain technology is impacting the logistical industry in numerous ways:
- Eliminating the middleman: Blockchain helps shippers see redundant processes that may be increasing their costs. The shipper could then remove these duplicate processes and any “middlemen” who are not required in the supply chain.
- Increasing efficiency: With the removal of redundant processes and administrative tasks, a company can boost its productivity. It could also find ways to move more products to destinations faster with better monitoring techniques.
- Tracking fleet performance: The tracking capabilities of blockchain are virtually infinite. The technology can also track individual vehicle and fleet performance.
- Enhancing Communication: Drivers can communicate with each other during the transportation of shipments, allowing them to avoid transportation delays and adapt for faster delivery times.
- Addressing Dispute Inefficiencies: Disputes regarding the lateness of shipments, damaged products, and other issues cause significant problems. Blockchain technology allows for greater transparency so teams can easily identify the problems and work together to solve them.
WSI Logistical Solutions
WSI is a third-party logistics company offering a global transportation network and comprehensive software solutions for shippers to ensure all freight reaches its destination safely and on time. We offer inventory management, warehousing, distribution, and transportation logistics services. As part of our technology roadmap, we are excited to learn and explore blockchain technology and its applications in the logistics industry.
Contact us today to get started.