Blockchain Fails to Gain Traction

December 17, 2022

Maersk and IBM discontinued a blockchain-based program to track shipments

Blockchain, the technology underpinning bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, for years has been viewed by some companies as a way to drive industry-transforming projects, among them the tracking of assets through complex supply chains. So far, that hasn’t happened, writes The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 16, 2022).

The latest effort to run aground was that of Maersk and IBM, which hoped to follow shipments via the blockchain. Another big effort, Walmart’s attempt to track groceries on the blockchain, continues, but very slowly.

“There’s not one company that has really shown, let’s say, a material change,” said Moody’s VP, of blockchain efforts in supply chains. It has been slow going or worse for big bets on blockchain for a number of reasons: the complexity of the technology, the time required to get a blockchain into operation and the difficulties in enlisting participants.

TradeLens, the Maersk- IBM blockchain platform, was launched in 2018 to help digitize container shipping on a secure global tracking platform. Had it worked, it would have been a game-changer, cutting down on paperwork to clear customs and offering cargo owners more visibility of their boxes during transit.

In 2018, Walmart partnered with IBM to start tracking its produce items through blockchain. The effort began with leafy greens, and in the four years since has added just one more item: green bell peppers. Walmart said it took time to get buy-in from suppliers who found the onboarding process daunting. Many didn’t have digital record-keeping systems and had to make large upfront investments before they could start using blockchain.

“There used to be a time, 4 years ago, every interview that I would get into, the question was about blockchain and how’s UPS going to use blockchain. Are you guys going to solve all the problems in the world with blockchain?” says a former UPS exec. “It’s been a long time since anyone has asked me about blockchain,” he added. “It never really took off in my world.”

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

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