Decentralisation in Supply Chain Management



With increasingly complex supply chains, the ability to monitor inter-organisational activities has become progressively more difficult. Supply chain visibility (SCV) allows managers to control cost, quality and sustainability. The disparate nature of the global supply chain, with upstream suppliers often unknown to downstream customers, means that there is often no single centralised trusted authority. The lack of visibility leads to many problems. Documentation related to product or services may be vague, amended or lost. Human rights abuses can be hidden. Environmental damage covered up. Blockchain-based solutions can provide data immutability within SCV systems. A lack of visibility leads to common challenges, including abusive labour practices and environmental damage. Blockchain may help address some of the challenges faced by firms, as a part of systems created to provide complete provenance of a product or service, and an auditable trail of data related to the firms offer. This project documents exemplar systems, capturing system architectures, underpinning logics, business philosophy behind the approaches taken and explores the benefits and limitations experienced.

DLT technical challenge

Problem: What are the decentralised infrastructures employed? How is data captured (e.g. IoT, PoS, manual entry) and is it reliable (e.g. if geographically remote, is the data captured in a different system then ‘fed in’ later? Are there other more appropriate technologies beyond DLT that could be used for the system? How are identities set and at what level (asset, organisation, individual)?

Solution: Visibility

Examination of supply chain applications of blockchain which provide visibility to participants.

Solution: ‘Good’ Blockchain projects have been developed to extend the reach of distributed ledger technology (DLT) beyond cryptocurrency to achieve “good” in the world. But what does “good” mean and how can it be realised through technology ?

Legal challenge

Problem: What are the privacy implications of the system of attribution? What regulatory concerns might exist around the system? What legal rights might provenance information imply? If the system is global, what data transfer legislative barriers need to be addressed?

Solution: Trust Research examines the impact of a blockchain and/ or distributed systems on the role and importance of trust.

Business challenge

Problem: What is the business model behind the system – what is novel, and how is value created? What is the value proposition that incentivizes stakeholders to participate sustainably? What are the limitations? What role does the system play (audit, trust, provenance, compliance, payment, contracts etc.)?

Solution: Paradox This research aims to identify paradoxes in the context of distributed ledger technologies (DLTs). Paradoxes are phenomena that are contradictory, appearing rational in isolation, but illogical in combination.