PurposeThis paper aims to investigate how blockchain has moved beyond cryptocurrencies and is being deployed to enhance visibility and trust in supply chains, their limitations and potential impact.Design/methodology/approachQualitative analysis are undertaken via case studies drawn from food companies using semi-structured interviews.FindingsBlockchain is demonstrated as an enabler of visibility in supply chains. Applications at scale are most likely for products where the end consumer is prepared to pay the premium currently required to fund the technology, e.g. baby food. Challenges remain in four areas: trust of the technology, human error and fraud at the boundaries, governance, consumer data access and willingness to pay.Research limitations/implicationsThe paper shows that blockchain can be utilised as part of a system generating visibility and trust in supply chains. Research directs academic attention to issues that remain to be addressed. The challenges pertaining to the technology itself we believe to be generalisable; those specific to the food industry may not hold elsewhere.Practical implicationsFrom live case studies, we provide empirical evidence that blockchain provides visibility of exchanges and reliable data in fully digitised supply chains. This provides provenance and guards against counterfeit goods. However, firms will need to work to gain consumer buy-in for the technology following repeated past claims of trustworthiness.Originality/valueThis paper provides primary evidence from blockchain use cases “in the wild”. The exploratory case studies examine application of blockchain for supply chain visibility.
Supply Chain Management: An International Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 4, 2020