Blockchain: Could It Be Supply Chain Game Changer?

Furniture Today — Originally developed to manage global exchanges for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, a blockchain is a digital ledger on which transactions are listed chronologically and publicly. In a supply chain application, those transactions would be visible to those companies forming links in the chain.

Why is blockchain of potential importance in the furniture industry? Right now, players in the logistics space are exploring the technology as a way to better manage supply chains, with stakeholders — manufacturer, retailer and service providers such as ocean, rail and truck carriers — having full visibility of goods in transit in order to take immediate action to accommodate and manage for delays, track progress and get proactive with communication among the parties and end consumers.

Each link in the supply chain — manufacturer, port of origin, ocean carrier, destination port, drayage, carrier (trucking, rail, intermodal), warehouse and ultimately final mile — represents a “block” of information that can be updated in real-time and as part of a permanent record visible to all in the chain.

Some major logistics powers are looking to the technology for the future. For example, in January A.P. Moller-Maersk, the world’s largest ocean carrier, and IBM announced a blockchain joint venture to manage and track container shipping through a trade digitization platform built on open standards and designed for use throughout the global shipping system. And in February, Agility Global Integrated Logistics signed on as the new system’s first freight forwarder.

In addition, an alliance of logistics services providers has formed the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) to develop standards and practices to allow the implementation of blockchain among various functions in a supply chain.

Troy Cooper, COO at XPO Logistics, sees several potential applications for blockchain in the furniture industry. “For example, businesses could record proof-of-delivery information or track data that links a shipment to its origin in a secure and transparent way,” he said. “Blockchain could also help simplify payments because it makes the whole payment process accountable.”

What’s in it for furniture?

American Global Logistics, which recently joined BiTA, got its start offering supply chain services for the furniture industry.


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