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Supply chains are all around us and they're notoriously hard to track. They're also hard to manage and run as efficiently as possible.
Take, for example, the production of a plastic toy. Its supply chain stretches to the beginnings of the petroleum extraction and refinement process and ends when it is delivered to the store, after packaging, assembly, shipment, sourcing, etc.
Supply chains have a lot of moving parts, a whole lot of middlemen, and a long of nitty-gritty details to figure out. Thanks to new technology, the way supply chains are managed and the ways that goods are moved throughout them is changing.
The future of mobility has been a hot topic at CES 2020. Keeping within that trend, a roundtable of technology and shipping executives was gathered to discuss how to keep supply chains resilient in the modern world.
After all, cities and suppliers rely on supply chains functioning properly. From the sounds of it, making sure everything runs smoothly will rely on drones and blockchain.
UPS is a Drone Airline
UPS operates the world's first drone airline if you didn't already know that. The US Department of Transportation announced back in October of 2019 that it had approved the company to operate the country's first drone airline business.
The company had been delivering medicine at a hospital campus in North Carolina prior to this announcement, but the approval to run an airline means that UPS can deliver goods anywhere in the country outside of the line of sight utilizing drones.
All this serves a greater purpose though, as UPS is looking to use drones to strengthen the flexibility of supply chains through quick on-demand shipping.
Utilizing drones in shipping allows UPS to make deliveries rapidly when time is of the essence. Think of drones in the supply chain as rapid-delivery devices, allowing a good to be shipped across town in 10 minutes when it would otherwise take a delivery vehicle hours to get there.
All of this helps shorten the gaps between segments in any given supply chain. It's just one example of how technology is being used to strengthen supply chains across the world.
Blockchain is being used to track food through the supply chain
Moving on from drones, we're met with the next big technology buzzword that has reared its head within supply chains: blockchain.
Blockchain technologies are particularly good at being used to track things. For cryptocurrencies, it's used to track financial data. However, in the food supply chain, it's being used to track food from the ground to the plate.
Think back to the last time there was an outbreak of a food-born pathogen, say in lettuce. When this occurs, nearly all lettuce is taken off the shelves in the affected area, sometimes for weeks on end. This disrupts the entire supply chain when in reality the issue was probably only central to one farm and/or one brand.
It traditionally takes a long time to track down where the lettuce you bought came from, but the blockchain is changing that. Through the help of IBM and various out food sourcing companies, blockchain is being implemented in every step of the food sourcing supply chain. This means that through computer data models, whenever an issue arises, the question of "where did it begin" can be answered in seconds, not weeks.
At the end of the day, the panel at CES leaned heavily into the future of our food supply chain being tracked utilizing blockchain technology. It's the best and most secure way to ensure the safety of consumers and ultimately, make turning a profit in the food industry as easy as possible for companies.