May 24, 2018

#XChain2 Blockchain for Supplychain

I attended the┬á#Blockchain For Supply Chain┬áconference held this week on May 21 & 22, 2018 in Houston and hosted by the University of Houston under the┬á#XChain2┬áumbrella. The event was MC’d by Daryl Price , former NFL star from the 49ers. The consultant team executing the event was great and even had an interview session with Michaella Black.

The University of Houston, Port of Houston and Port of Antwerp provided the sponsorship to this conference and help understand the business case for blockchain in Oil and Gas, energy, container management and shipping. Though there is debate on exactly when, it is expected that port operations will transition from the archaic systems and processes they use today to a more modern approach between 2028 to 2040. There was mention of the Maersk-IBM joint venture, though I wish someone from either firm was there to talk about this.

I met a number of senior folks from various companies including Port of Houston, Port of Antwerp, Shell, BP, Kuhne and Nagel, Ricoh, University of Houston, NxtPort, ShipNext, T-Mining etc. The opportunities in the energy industry are enormous. A number of the consulting companies talked about #blockchain and demonstrated standard PoCs around food provenance, track and trade, Invoice and settlement upon POD receipt, coffee beans provenance etc. Few vendors demonstrated PoCs, though some touted them as production ready. 

Many participants were not aware of the #Hyperledger Project nor the enterprise capabilities of┬á#Hyperledger-Fabric. However, look at the bright side. I learnt about the opportunities where Chainyard can contribute and lead. Here are some key takeaways –

Port Operations have several opportunities to explore how blockchain can help. They include:

  • Terminal Operations and Efficiency;importantly obtaining accuracy and transparency of data
  • Cargo and Container Management
  • Automatic settlement of payments to truck operators for load/unload of containers
  • Real time Track and Trace of cargo; maritime navigation and accuracy of departure/arrival

Oil and Natural Gas Companies have also been exploring various use cases and some of the ones that I noted:

  • Asset Management in the oil operations such as tracking and tracing ownership, improving capacity utilization and operational efficiency, payments and settlements over usage
  • Compliance and Audit
  • Re-imagined Value Chains
  • Energy trade to final settlement
  • Provenance of products such as lubricants whose contamination can have disastrous effects
  • Trade Finance

The Government especially the Customs and Border Patrol also finds blockchain as a potential technology in areas such as

  • Customs documentation
  • NAFTA and CAFTA implementations
  • Cross Border Trade Compliance

Supply Chain Operations can improve processes around waybills, Bill of Lading, Proof of Delivery and Invoicing.

Overall, I find mini and focused conferences are more useful than massive ones with thousands of participants where having one on one conversations often is limited to a few minutes.