Tracking Provenance in the Supply Chain

The items we see available in stores, online or in supermarkets go through long often complex journeys handled by numerous different parties before arriving to us. Many companies claim that their products are handcrafted, organic, free-range, ethical, sustainable, etc. But how can we be certain that the labels on the products we buy are representative of their true origins and provenance?

With the OECD reporting in 2016 that counterfeit and pirated goods account for nearly 2.5% of all imports or roughly half a trillion dollars per year, compounded by scandals affecting industries such as the horse meat scandal in 2013, modified kill dates to trick customers into buying products past use-by dates and non-existent farms named on products, there seems to be grounds for concern.

One underlying problem within this relates to the relationships and exchange of information between the various parties involved in the different supply chains. Rising complexity and globalisation have in parts contributed to a lack of transparency and made it difficult for retailers to track product movements and trace their origins. As customers, this makes it difficult for us to be confident in the information retailers are providing, unsurprisingly we are seeing increasing demand for better information on product provenance.

As companies react more are looking towards Blockchain technology as the solution. Blockchain is essentially a decentralised digital platform for recording and verifying transactions, transactions are timestamped and persisted making it nigh impossible to alter or manipulate. In the case of proving provenance, the Blockchain is used to record production details and key information or digital versions of certification as products journey through the supply chain. This information can then be accessed by scanning QR codes or devices embedded on products.

Being a permanent and shared record provides immutability and importantly trust for the consumer or other interested parties. For example, Blockchain technology will also help identify errors faster, smooth product recalls and reduce the impact of bad product batches.

Boxchain is a pioneering set of modular, Blockchain-integrated applications targeting the future of supply chain logistics. Designed to the same standards as the Blockchain, Boxchain enables information to be handled off-chain improving speed, performance and protecting sensitive information whilst still ensuring transparency.