When Elon Musk recently announced that Tesla would start building electric semi-trucks that would have 500-mile range and come with a version of Tesla’s Autopilot driving aid, the world realized it wasn’t a matter of if, but when these new trucks would be hitting the highways. After all, this is the same guy who said he was sick of sitting in traffic and launched the Boring Company, which is now tunneling beneath the gridlocked freeways of Los Angeles. And let’s not forget Musk’s SpaceX, the Hyperloop and Tesla – all radically different companies predicated on technology innovation, creativity, disruption and long term commercial viability.
The pace of innovation is picking up steam at an exponential rate. With advanced hardware, software and connectivity becoming accessible and cost effective on a global scale, we’re experiencing an innovation shift from desiring “better gadgets” to discovering entire new business categories built around technology. The implications for consumers is exhilarating and at times terrifying. The implications for businesses is terrifying and at times exhilarating.
Technology has become fully embedded in supply chain management – just go to any supply chain conference and you will find agendas dominated by tech talk. Robots, self-driving vehicles, electric trucks, blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), and new mobile-enabled categories are all poised to explode onto the scene in one form or another. It’s hard to predict what’s real and what will fade away, but expect 2018 to become a year of heavy innovation for supply chain leaders, even if it’s experimental. But…
When an E.coli outbreak at Chipotle Mexican Grill outlets left 55 customers ill, in 2015, the news stories, shutdowns, and investigations shattered the restaurant chain’s reputation. Sales plummeted, and Chipotle’s share price dropped 42%, to a three-year low, where it has languished ever since.
At the heart of the Denver-based company’s crisis was the ever-present problem faced by companies that depend on multiple suppliers to deliver parts and ingredients: a lack of transparency and accountability across complex supply chains. Unable to monitor its suppliers in real time, Chipotle could neither prevent the contamination nor contain it in a targeted way after it was discovered.
Now, a slew of startups and corporations are exploring a radical solution to this problem: using a blockchain to transfer title and record permissions and activity logs so as to track the flow of goods and services between businesses and across borders.
With blockchain technology, the core system that underpins bitcoin, computers of separately owned entities follow a cryptographic protocol to constantly validate updates to a commonly shared ledger. A fundamental advantage of this distributed system, where no single company has control, is that it resolves problems of disclosure and accountability between individuals and institutions whose interests aren’t necessarily aligned. Mutually important data can be updated in real time, removing the need for laborious, error-prone reconciliation with each other’s internal records. It gives each member of the network far greater and timelier visibility of the total activity.