The air-express carriers can look at blockchain in two ways: as an aid in managing their own aftermarket supply chains; and as a tool to manage the portion of supply chains they provide for aviation and other customers. Eugene Laney, head of international government affairs for DHL Express USA, emphasizes the second possible role of the new distributed ledger technology.
“At DHL, we embrace standards that allow for complete management of goods until their final delivery,” Laney says. The carrier seeks standards that enable full supply chain visibility while maintaining security and safety. “This is where blockchain comes in. It can play an important role in improving the entire supply chain process, by improving visibility not only for shippers but also for customers who could watch in real-time as parts move through their shipping lifecycle.”
Laney says customs clearance is one example of a process that could greatly benefit from blockchain. “This is why getting governments on board is essential.”
Laney predicts that collaboration will create standards, and once these standards are agreed upon, supply chain participants can work together with more certainty and reliability and at lower costs. He expects that blockchain will enable DHL to move shipments quickly around the globe.
To illustrate the possible benefits of blockchain, the DHL exec cites some historical incidents. In 2007, many toy companies were blamed for allowing lead-based paint in their imported toys. “These companies did not have visibility into their supply chain to shut down these dangerous inputs.”
In 2010, a terrorist in Yemen attempted to use cargo containing a printer cartridge to blow up airplanes. “There was a mad and urgent rush to determine legitimate and illegitimate shipments of printer cartridges.”
And in recent headline news, thousands of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexican border placed enormous pressure on U.S. Customs staff, which indirectly affected commercial shipments at the border. “Hundreds of trucks stood idling for hours without the benefit of customs clearance.”
Laney argues all these problems could have been avoided or at least mitigated with a secure, reliable and easily accessed supply-chain record such as blockchain.