US retail giant Walmart will use the promising blockchain technology to improve tracking and quality assurance in their live food business. Walmart has announced their decision recently at the MIT technology Review’s “Business of Blockchain” conference.
Large businesses sourcing raw materials from diverse sources need to spend significant time and energy for supply chain assurance, which includes tracking the sources, whether the raw materials were sourced ethically, and quality assurance of raw material. When customers have queries about the raw material, normally multiple groups within the organization have to coordinate, for giving a speedy response to customer, for e,g, customer service, information technology (IT) etc.
When Walmart‘s live food business receives a query from a customer about quality of a food item, the team internally engages the IT group, to gather information about the food item in question. It takes up to six days for Walmart to gather sufficient information about the quality, source, and handling of the item, and respond to customer.
Walmart has decided to use blockchain to improve on this score. Blockchain ensures decentralization by design, with entire information on blockchain maintained in a shared manner by ‘nodes’, i.e. computers on the network, with no central server. Also, the rigorous consensus mechanism of blockchain, and the complex cryptographic puzzles that the nodes need to solve before they can update the distributed database in blockchain, ensure that blockchain is tamper-proof.
Walmart will have vendors enter the information about the food item on the blockchain. This will allow the customers and Walmart team to view information about the origin, quality, vendor, time of shipment, and other pertinent information on a real-time basis, because everything will be recorded on the distributed decentralized ledger of blockchain. Walmart has estimated that instead of six days earlier, their customers will now get answers to their questions on Walmart’s live food in just two seconds! Walmart believes that contamination management will improve, and wastage will be reduced, along with improvement in transparency.
Walmart isn’t new to blockchain. They had tested the solution they plan to implement in their live food business in 2016, with IBM. The scope at that time was detect and remove recalled products from its products list. Walmart has also applied for two patents involving blockchain technology, and they are:
- Blockchain-powered drone packaged delivery tracking system;
- Blockchain-based “Smart Package” system that will track location, environmental conditions, and package contents.
Blockchain is being increasingly used for supply chain risk assurance, for e.g.:
- Norway based well-known risk management company DNV GL has partnered with VeChain to power their risk assurance business with blockchain;
- German auto-maker BMW is using blockchain to ensure they source only clean Cobalt for the batteries used in their electric vehicles.
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is spearheading a blockchain project to improve transparency in the Tuna fishing industry in The Pacific Islands, which will help eliminate illegal fishing and slavery.