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Blockchaining supply chains

17 January 2020

Blockchain spelled on Scrabble tiles

A Reader in Logistics and Operations Management from Cardiff Business School has leant her expertise to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in a bid to raise awareness and share knowledge about blockchain technology in supply chains.

Dr Yingli Wang delivered a masterclass on blockchain in collaboration with industrial partners from Arup and Nomitech at RICS’ Digital Built Environment Conference 2019 followed by a webinar on blockchain's role in the circular economy for the World Built Environment Forum.

Held in Farringdon, London, the conference was themed around blockchain and the effect of its various applications on the professions in the built and natural environment.

Dr Wang was one of ten expert speakers drawn from industry, academia and professional services to deliver the masterclass.

Her session focused on addressing key questions, including:

  • How might blockchain change the way that real estate is transacted?
  • What are the benefits of a blockchain-enabled supply chain?
  • Could blockchain drive improved resource usage and eliminate materials waste?

Following the success of Dr Wang’s masterclass at the conference, RICS invited her to participate in a digital transformation webinar on blockchain’s role in the circular economy and relating specifically to the built environment.

In collaboration with industrial partners Kevin O’Grady, Associate Director at Arup, and Alexander Bardell, Founder of SDAvocate, Dr Wang unpacked blockchain's ability to track and prove provenance to deliver value in circular economy supply chains.

Value creation

After a short introduction to the concept of the circular economy by Mr Bardell, Dr Wang focused in on the unique abilities of blockchain technology compared to other distributed ledgers. These include:

  • Parallel visibility
  • Transparency
  • Ownership
  • Traceability
  • Peer to peer trading
  • Smart contracting.

However, she stressed that there must be a strong user case for adopting this technology in the circular economy beyond provenance and tracking.

“You don't implement blockchain for the sake of it, you need to think about the value creation. Either you have existing problems in your supply chain within the circular economy that you think blockchain can help solve, or you see new business opportunities that arise from the use of blockchain.”

Professor Yingli Wang Professor in Logistics and Operations Management, Deputy Head of Section - Research, Impact and Innovation

Drawing upon her extensive research on blockchain, Dr Wang shared a case study on Walmart.

The multinational retail conglomerate has mandated all its leafy green vegetable suppliers use blockchain so it can trace products back to source in seconds if it ever needs to.

Reflecting on this implementation of blockchain in a supply chain, she said: “They have very good reason to do this, because if there is a health and safety issue with their products they can trace and recall very quickly. Whereas traditional methods this process might take days if not weeks.

“In the future, it will be inevitable for the built environment to follow suit,” she said in conclusion.

RICS is a globally recognised professional body designed to effect positive change in the built and natural environments.

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