Nowadays, information is the true lifeblood of businesses. Global supply chains have been extremely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the importance of real-time and accurate information flow.
Various buyers just found out that part of their supplies is manufactured in China. The need for supply chain visibility and transparency is greater than ever before. Before COVID-19 hit us hard, the emphasis on better information was already gaining more traction. When is my package going to be at my doorstep? Where do these strawberries come from? Is the cotton in this shirt organic and sustainable? Can I trust this company with my private information? We, as consumers, ask one or more of these questions, and expect clear answers: we’ll be at your door tomorrow at 9 PM, no children worked in manufacturing your clothes, we care about your privacy, and so on.
However, like a stone in a pond, these questions ripple through supply chains, propagating from one company to its suppliers. The retailer demands more information from its suppliers, the local insurance company asks secure privacy systems from its IT provider, the trader in Latin America demands additional information from the cooperatives it works with. The result is that our consumer demand for better and more precise information becomes a quest to revolutionise how information is managed and transferred throughout global supply chains.
This process generates challenges, obstacles on the path to digitalisation and sharing of information. While these challenges are often an annoying road blockage for a global multinational, they easily become insurmountable mountains for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). SMEs face the clear risk of being left behind in this journey towards generating and sharing supply chain information. It is for this reason that we have decided to identify and tackle major challenges in safely collecting and sharing information, affecting specifically SMEs in the logistics/supply chain, agri-food and healthcare industries.
The idea, encompassed within the Blockstart project, is to select 4 “transnational challenges” that are recognised by many companies and, concurrently, form a transnational team of experts and SMEs around it to co-develop solutions that can be brought to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 6. The Blockstart consortium has been working on identifying and selecting these challenges in the three sectors. In this post, we’d like to share our findings.