Clearly blockchain technology has major benefits for supply chains, but even with that being the case, there are some significant obstacles it still has to overcome.
Blockchain is growing rapidly. According to TechJury, the blockchain market is set to have made 20 billion dollars by 2024. More pertinently, 53% of respondents to a 2018 Statista study said they’re using blockchain for their company’s supply chain. As such, the futures of supply chains and blockchains are very much intertwined. Yet, like with any new technology that has to grow at an immense pace in order to keep up with market demands, blockchain remains on unsteady ground.
This week’s article by Morai Logistics explores the most prominent hurdles blockchains have yet to overcome in the world of supply chains.
The very fact that blockchains are such a new technology is their baseline barrier to any market. This includes the supply chain industry. Simply understanding the technology, how to talk about it, and how to use it to its fullest potential all have to be a part of an education process.
CoinDesk highlighted this in an article addressing blockchain limitations,
Blockchain technology involves an entirely new vocabulary. It has made cryptography more mainstream, but the highly specialized industry is chock-full of jargon.
Without acclimating each segment along supply chains to blockchain technology, it is unlikely be adopted by them. This is harder than it might seem. These segments are often disparate and will have different degrees of understanding and resistance—from those in warehouses to those driving trucks.
Despite being known for the transparency they provide, blockchains aren’t foolproof when it comes down to data security. This is particularly true when a blockchain isn’t large. Part of the strength of the technology is the size of its network. If, for example, there only a few actors along a chain, it’s more likely that that blockchain will be susceptible to poor/bad data. Large scale adoption is crucial to overcome this.
Additionally, not all blockchain platforms are made equal. Technological advancements in machine learning and automation are not always used in supply chains. This means the data that is entered in the blockchain is more likely to suffer from human error. Blockchain needs to be part of a larger evolutionary process by supply chains, not adopted in a vacuum.
Building off the previous point, blockchains are not only less secure but, in turn, less efficient without a holistic approach to their implementation. This means there needs to be integration of blockchain data into the supply chain platform being used. Moreover, without some kind of automated operation to make sure the data is clean, secure, and reliable, it can be a slow form of record keeping—human data entry being more time-consuming.
In many ways, the topic of maturity is just all the issues raised in this article combined. All of them come together to make potentially the biggest obstacle that blockchains need to clear. Blockchain is a technology for the future. In the present, it is very new, hurt by that newness, and stymied by efficiency and security concerns.
Kasey Panetta of Gartner writes,
Confusing future blockchain technology with the present-day generation. Current blockchain platform technology is limited in scope, and falls short of meeting the requirements of a global-scale distribution platform that can enable the programmable economy.
Thus, one of the things blockchains require the most is simply time. However, that isn’t something they are receiving. As such, it is up to the countless blockchain projects in the world of supply chains to not rely on what they will be able to do down the line but rather respond to present-day pressures.