Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple - cryptocurrency has been dominating the news in everything from investments to regulatory oversight to international trading. Underneath those digital coins, however, lurks a far more enterprising concept: the supportive latticework of a concept called the blockchain.
The proverbial heart of the machine, this intriguing engine relies on decentralized control - each transaction is verified and re-verified in a complex self-rewarding system of participants that isn't vulnerable to alteration or fraud. Beyond the socio-financial focus on blockchain technology as alternate currency, manufacturers are cashing in on a different strength altogether: decentralized confirmations that improve everything from compliance to efficiency using this system.
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Trust But Verify: A New Age
One "bad" component can cause surprisingly large systems to stumble, spilling customer trust and brand integrity on their way to the bottom. That's why it is absolutely crucial for a wide swath of industries - health and beauty, automotive, and pharmaceutical to name just a few - to know exactly where their ingredients come from. This includes how they've been treated as they travel through their requisite supply chains, and how to quickly trace them to their source in the event of an issue. Prior to the blockchain, this was a tedious process that involved scores of individuals, potential language barriers, global constraints, and all-consuming paperwork - time-intensive leaps in situations that often did not have time to spare.
Utilizing the mandatory multi-confirmation entry system of the blockchain for component and finished product data has revolutionized the way the fabrication sphere interacts with its tools and materials. It allows stakeholders ranging from supply chain partners to end consumers to look at a comprehensive, transparent timeline of what they are researching, from raw material to store - or digital - shelf. Data is much more readily translated and universally read than emails or phone calls, enabling actionable insights to be shared more freely across the manufacturing chain.
Blockchain technology can simplify your global supply chain, especially for small and mid-sized businesses
A Distributed Ledger With Benefits
Integration is one of the most powerful words in the assembly and manufacturing lexicon. When various nodes of the supply and demand chain communicate seamlessly, less work, less manpower, and fewer accidents become the tempting results. While blockchain is still relatively new, and even a novelty to some, make no mistake - it isn't going anywhere. Beyond quiet usage and experimentation within industries, big retail players like Walmart are signing on, as are B2B decision-makers as large as IBM, AMEX, and JP Morgan Chase.
While each company may be privately exploring the blockchain to develop intra-company records at the moment, eventually success will drive them to connect with other blockchain-welding companies - and perhaps even offer them preferential treatment, as well. Additionally, unimpeachable integration and connection holds special promise where B2B lenders are concerned. When all B2B transaction records are indelibly registered to the blockchain, determining credit worthiness becomes a nearly-automated process.
When all B2B transaction records are indelibly registered to the blockchain, determining credit worthiness becomes a nearly-automated process.
While platforms and operating systems (both in existence and in development) undoubtedly make navigating the blockchain easier, part of the beauty of widespread fabrication and manufacturing adoption is the simplicity. The decentralized design means that no company can act as gatekeeper, ethically, financially, or otherwise. Scaling isn't a concern, either: a transaction on the blockchain is a transaction, whether it's $10,000 for a cargo container shipment or 10 million for an entire cargo ship full. This means that SMBs aren't crowded out, and businesses with one warehouse stand to benefit in terms of scaled efficiency, alongside household names. Happily, the more complex the supply and demand flow becomes, the greater the opportunity for blockchain tech to shine, reining in the chaotic nature of a busy, multi-branch global supply chain through the power of data.
Regulatory compliance can bog down SMEs, but blockchain can help ease that regulatory burden
Blockchain Makes Regulation Easier
While regulation, continually shifted by socio-political movements across the globe, can be challenging, blockchain tech makes it a more straightforward goal. The goal of any regulation, it can be argued, can be summed up in four needs: to determine what something is, where something has come from, where something is going, and how much money is changing hands along its route. These are all very common pieces of data found on the blockchain, as manufacturers have embraced the transparent, trustworthy nature of the network for their record-keeping needs. While it does simplify intra-company tallies, blockchain technology can also be furnished to regulatory agencies as proof of compliance, provided the organization in question is blockchain-literate.
Less red tape and bureaucracy is a universal win for manufacturing
As the technology behind this decentralized concept grows and evolves, it stands to reason that adoption will start creeping into regulatory bodies as well. Permanent, digitally-accessible, indelible records provide the kind of control and evidence that regulators have only been able to dream of until now. Less red tape and bureaucracy is a universal win for manufacturing, already laboring against obstacles like transportation driver shortages, 3PL price hikes, and looming tariffs complicating international trade.
Imagine, instead of these obstacles, an assembly line where each and every component came with a small, invisible, but easily traceable guarantee of quality. Imagine a manufacturing sphere that could confidentially isolate and investigate a single problem branch in a recall, rather than bringing their entire operation to a halt. Imagine if customers could know and trust the provenance of their finished goods and materials without a trace of cynicism or skepticism. It's not a pipe dream - it's the way of the future under a blockchain-supported assembly and manufacturing industry, and it's swiftly becoming a reality as more manufacturers and suppliers are hopping on board.
Imagine if customers could know and trust the provenance of their finished goods and materials without a trace of cynicism or skepticism
While blockchain technology is currently one of the most promising innovations elevating fabrication and assembly efficiency, only time will tell how widespread it will become. Jockeying with other future-forward concepts like robotic assistance and performance on the assembly line, it could also go both ways - either becoming a layer of ease for systems as they exist today, or transforming into the catalyst for a bold new approach to business that ensures the "old way" of doing things is obsolete in a handful of years.
Blockchain isn't the only technology Assembly businesses need to consider. A modern ERP is a critical success factor for mid-sized business in fabrication and assembly.
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