Published on in ManufacturingNews

Many technologies just sit on the shelf waiting for their time to come. Gartner Analyst Avivah Latin feels Blockchain’s time is now. (source) We agree. Why? 

Product provenance is the big game in town and Blockchain solves one big headache – ‘is what I’ve received, what I really ordered and where it has it really come from?’ 

Need some evidence? 

Soy is a key source of feed for chicken, pigs and other animals.  But it’s an Achilles heel for many supply chains.  Because the vast majority of soya is grown in Argentina, Brazil and the US, which between them account for 80% of global production. Two of those countries – Argentina and Brazil – have serious risks of deforestation in soya production. (2) 

The broadcaster and campaigner Chris Packham describes the risk. “Most people would be incredulous when they think they’re buying a piece of chicken in Tesco’s which has been fed on a crop responsible for one of the largest wholesale tropical forest destructions in recent times”. (2a) 

It’s not just soybean and palm oil, other manufacturers have the same problem.  Apple and Nike were urged back in July to cut ‘China Uighur ties’. (3)

Al Jazeera published a stunning exposure of Bangladesh sweatshops.  Showing how your suppliers-suppliers-supplier employs teenage seamstresses to make the jeans you just might be wearing. (4)  The UK has previously spent 2% of GDP (the same we spend today on defence) to eradicate slavery, but it’s not gone away and we can’t afford look away. 

The new UK-EU trade deal is further highlighting the need to demonstrate product provenance, as the agreement delivers on duty and quota free trade, but only so long as exports meet stringent local content requirements. Without trusted proof of product origin, at a component and material level, manufacturers will simply be forced to pay tariffs. (5) 

Every organisation has very strong Environmental, Social & Governance policies.  But the risks actually sit further down in the supply chain, sitting with the suppliers-supplier – the people who manufacturers subcontract work to.   

But the risks aren’t being managed, provenance urgently needs addressing using idefutable transparency. Campaigners and consumers want ethicy and Governments will regulate and fine companies into action. 

And we haven’t even talked about fakes or the explosion of grey products now flooding into regions as we buy even more on-line. 

So Gartner Analyst Avivah is right and organisations like AB Inbev are also right, who are doing something about it. 

Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) partnered with Fujitsu and Belgian blockchain platform firm SettleMint to help track and trace barley throughout the supply chain in France and Belgium. 

To launch the application, AB InBev has printed QR codes on product packaging of approx 3 Million bottles of one of its brands linking uniquely to the farm and farmer where the crop was grown and the journey of that crop from the field to beer bottling and distribution 

This creates a tamper-proof digital audit trail which enables AB InBev to ensure that suppliers are keeping to agreements on the environment and human rights, and to track whether any parts of the supply chain are facing challenges that it can help to remedy. 

Once the beer reaches bars, restaurants and retailers, consumers will be able to access the information stored using the blockchain platform by scanning on-pack QR codes.  

AB InBev works directly with around 60% of its global network of farmers; the idea is that the blockchain could boost visibility on the remaining 40%. It will be trialed by a group of barley farmers in the North East of France who are supplying a malthouse in Antwerp and a brewery in Leuven initially, with the resulting Leffe beer due to hit shelves in France in early 2021. (6) 

It really is that simple to provide provenance on Product, People & Services (sound familiar). 

You can do this.  There are many providers of Blockchain, here at Fujitsu we are a founding member and premier member of the Hyperledger project, Ethereum Enterprise Alliance member and we’re one of very few GSI’s who are also a Manufacturer.  We get it, as a leading global manufacturer, we understand Blockchain and how to deploy it within factory and supply chain settings to deliver true end-to-end visibility and provenance. 

It’s simple, Blockchain comes in three flavours: Public, Private & Hybrid and here at Fujitsu we do all three.   

But don’t just stop there, connect Blockchain to your chosen system of record (such as ServiceNow), add AI/ML and you’ll not only do great things, but you’ll be in a great place, too. 

And that’s why Blockchains time has come.

To continue the conversation please contact David, Johan or Lewis below.

Authors: 

David Basson (David.Basson@Fujitsu.com) & Johan Carstens (Johan.Carstens@Fujitsu.com) Advisors to UK Manufacturing 

Lewis Gearing (Lewis.Gearing@Fujitsu.com) & Chris Pilling (Christopher.Pilling@fujitsu.com) Blockchain Experts 

James Braithwaite (James.Braithwaite@Fujitsu.com)  Digital Workflows Expert 

Sources: 

1. https://blogs.gartner.com/avivah-litan/2021/01/13/3-blockbuster-blockchain-trends-in-2021/

2. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/25/how-can-we-stop-using-soya-soy-linked-to-deforestation 

2a. https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/soy-story-uk-retailers-and-soy-driven-deforestation 

3. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-53481253 

4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?edufilter=NULL&v=4dQGl_lswYY 

5. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/55648201 

6. https://ab-inbev.eu/news/from-barley-to-bar-ab-inbev-trials-blockchain-with-farmers-to-bring-supply-chain-transparency-all-the-way-to-beer-drinkers/ 

 

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