Blockchain technology could prove to be a valuable tool for procurement and supply chains in their quest for transparency.
In today’s world, the process of procurement, and even supply chain management, is facing more scrutiny than ever before.
Due to several different advances in technology (many of which relate more to our personal lives than business management), people are more sensitive than ever to issues of accuracy and matters of record. We want transactions verified, sources authenticated, and, generally, transparency in all things.
Where procurement and supply chain management are concerned, that level of transparency has been pretty much impossible in years past. However, there are some that believe that Bitcoin’s blockchain technology, of all things, has vast potential to alter how procurement is monitored and could improve accountability on all sides.
For those who may be unfamiliar with how blockchain technology works, this overview of Bitcoin explains that it’s essentially a public ledger on which all Bitcoin transactions are recorded.
Every transaction generates a series of letters and numbers indicating the two parties involved and the amount of Bitcoin exchanged. While specific identities are protected, it makes it absolutely, automatically clear where your Bitcoin came from, such that amounts of Bitcoin can be traced back through various transactions.
It’s basically a fool-proof system of transparency meant to guarantee the authenticity of these transactions.
Supply Chain Transparency
But how exactly would such a system help companies dealing with procurement and supply chain concerns?
This explanation clarifies the idea in a very effective manner, stating that a blockchain can track what went into a product, and who handled it along the way, revealing the provenance of a product to everyone involved, from origin to end user.
The article uses the example of a taco supply chain. When you buy a taco from a food truck you’re making a lot of trusting assumptions: that the truck is sanitary, that the taco’s ingredients are fresh, etc. But with a system of transparency in place you can personally check that those assumptions are indeed based in reality.
Considering that example with a product in the process of procurement, you begin to see the immense potential value of a blockchain.
Indeed, the same article discusses a range of examples covering different industries and points of interest along the supply chain. For instance, you might be able to look at a blockchain-style log and determine if a shirt you might buy was made with child labor, or you might see if a bottle of olive oil is just olive oil, and if so where else in the world it might be procured. You might even be able to confirm the authenticity of an antique or special product before purchasing.
Perhaps the most interesting example, however, comes in the form of a new company that’s arisen as a result of the blockchain to combat fraud and crime in the diamond trade.
Everledger is essentially building a vast data network, tracking diamonds in circulation by their identifying features and serial codes, and thus legitimising an industry that’s frequently been overrun by criminals and fraudulent transactions.
With a public ledger, diamonds could be traced back to their origins, appropriate values could be maintained, and selling a stolen diamond without being on record as doing so, would be all but impossible.
At this stage most of these examples concern consumer issues and supply chain transparency. However, as blockchain technology becomes more common, it’s easy to see its potential aspects in procurement as well.
For a technology that’s fundamentally simple, it’s somewhat amazing that it might solve transparency issues that have persisted in business transactions for most of human history.