Indian Transport & Logistics

Decoding the potential of blockchain technology in cold supply chain

With the concept of a decentralized ledger made up of encrypted blocks, at its core, blockchain offers companies a transparent and secure platform.

In the past few years, blockchain has evolved to go beyond initial cryptocurrency and NFTs and now finds applications across business verticals, especially banking, healthcare, governance and several Big Data related automation solutions. The cold supply chain is one of the latest sectors to have found applications for blockchain tech and is already showing promising results! With the fast-rising need for creating unbroken temperature-controlled cold chains, it is imperative that modern solutions leveraging intelligent tech innovations are applied to eliminate error margins and cut losses.

With the concept of a decentralized ledger made up of encrypted blocks, at its core, blockchain offers companies a transparent and secure platform to manage and track inventory as it moves through the supply chain. And smart, digitally programmed contracts automatically enact or document relevant events when specific terms are met, offering a way for supply chain stakeholders to collaborate and share information (and money) more efficiently. Given the significance of consistent temperature control and monitoring in cold supply chain networks, blockchain can prove to be a game-changer. Listed here are the key benefits of adopting blockchain technology for cold supply chains:

Credibility assurance
Transparency is at the very core of a blockchain-enabled Cold Supply Chain and helps not only monitor temperature controls and register lapses in real time but also build a sustainable system that facilitates decentralization and transparency of all data, thus helping build a robust network. This is especially beneficial in the case of pharma supply chains where a lot of fake medicines and counterfeit vaccines and pharma supplies tend to get past manual checks. Blockchain helps to not only weed them out but also identify the exact source and thus create transparency and credibility.

Quality assurance
One of the key benefits of adopting Blockchain technology, is the accurate traceability of the process, which means it is possible to track the exact movement of goods, from the starting point towards the end, thereby ensuring credibility and quality assurance across the entire food supply chain. Generally, the conventional cold supply chains are marred with lapses in record keeping and identifying the source of a problem, in case of crisis. So, when food products are damaged or vaccines and medicines are rendered ineffective due to inadequate temperature control, it can become a challenge for companies to decipher the lapses due to poor recordkeeping and conventional traceability methods. Additionally, the process may take weeks, and further affect a larger number of products or batches, rendering the supply chain ineffective for that duration. Enhanced traceability due to blockchain makes it easier to identify and weed out inefficiencies, manipulations, human error, or any other untoward incidents, in record time, thus reducing losses.

Enhanced efficiency
With increased traceability and transparency, it is possible to not only eliminate inaccuracies and errors but to also remove dependency on manual processes. Although digitizes supply chains handle large and sophisticated databases, the process can often be overextended because of intermediaries. Leveraging blockchain can help enable Smart Contracts which help eliminate dependencies on manual documentation, thereby enhancing the end-to-end effectiveness of digital records.

Bettor ROI
With effective traceability and transparency that help remove operational inefficiencies, blockchain helps cut losses arising out of damaged products, thereby improving profitability. Also, with blockchain, businesses would be able to establish a premium product quality, over a longer period of time, thereby resulting in a higher return on investment.

Improved customer experience
With enhanced product quality due to effective cold storage and transport, blockchain also helps provide consistency, timely deliveries, better costs and thus improved products. Additionally, with live tracking and timely updates, capturing important product-related information, inventory management and customer feedback, it is also helpful in building effective customer engagement that can lead to improving customer delight.

IoT and automaton-driven efficiency
Apart from driving efficiency, profitability and enhanced customer experience, blockchain also makes it possible for logistics and supply chain experts to adopt IoT-driven tech innovations and automation across the network. From smarter storage and inventory management to data-driven predictive analysis and smart last-mile deliveries through temperature-controlled devices, to real-time tracking, integrating blockchain technology with the internet of things (IoT) devices can transform the face of cold storage, from end to end.

While blockchain initially gained popularity mainly for removing dependencies on centralised third-party entities and bringing transparency, it has now become synonymous with driving excellence. Even as we struggle to contain the huge logistic costs and the massive food wastage due to inadequate cold storage and transport infrastructure, India's dream of becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2024 would be difficult to achieve without a robust tech-driven transformation. However, basic challenges like the cost of implementing blockchain and the lack of integrated platforms and networks that can work to create a holistic impact on enhancing cold supply chains, are important aspects to be worked on.

In spite of these challenges, with data-driven insights and integration with AI, IoT and other emerging technologies, blockchain is emerging as a strong facilitator for creating robust, effective and truly unbroken cold supply chain networks, beyond the limitations of time and geography. And it is high time we embrace this, so as to be able to truly emerge as a global economic power.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Indian Transport & Logistics News.

Swarup Bose

Swarup Bose

He is the founder and chief executive officer of the SaaS-based cold chain marketplace Celcius

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