IBM has made its blockchain-based food and supply chain solution, IBM Food Trust, “generally available” after a year-and-a-half of testing, the company announced on Monday.
The computing giant has, over the last 18 months, recruited some big-name partners to test the solution in real-time, including Nestle, 3M, Walmart, Dole and Centricity. Each company will be trying to ascertain how the tech could, if adopted, deliver end-to-end visibility for their products.
As the different companies had different requirements, IBM developed the tech in modular form. It harnesses GS1 standards to communicate product data and has an open source platform to enable interoperability.
The core modules are:
- Trace: the solution can slash the time needed to trace a product’s value chain journey from weeks to seconds, providing instant visibility to all “members of the food ecosystem”, according to the IBM press release.
- Certifications: Certificates such as fair trade or organic are digitised by the module, accelerating the pace of certificate management by as much as 30%
- Data entry and access: This particular module ensures secure data management across the blockchain
The modular construction enables IBM to extend the solution as new needs emerge, as well as allowing it to charge different fees according to differing company needs.
But can this solution help other core procurement functions like sourcing savings and cost reduction more broadly? Perhaps the jury is still out on that. Blockchain networks may represent a bold technological innovation for supply relationship management, but they do not necessarily abolish risks entirely. They still require the intervention of wide range of human actors in order to create value – all it takes is one link in the chain to fail, and the whole project of delivering end-to-end visibility collapses.
That’s why early adopters are taking a cautions approach to adoption and confining it to specific products.
If, as seems likely, uptake proliferates, IBM has plans to implement it as a software as a service solution, at least for the food industry.
Steve has over 28 years of success as CPO, MD and Procurement BPO leader in a range of industries. Steve is COO at Odesma, responsible for Odesma’s delivery capability & infrastructure.