Blockchain: Have we moved beyond hype?

HBR believe it is dangerous to ignore new technology, but are we ready to secure a return on investment from this emerging tech?

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Pharma IQ

In a recent article, the Harvard Business Review declared that platforms and blockchain will transform logistics. Sangeet Paul Choudhary, Marshall Van Alstyne and Geoffrey G Parker discussed how complexity was increasing as a result of multi-party co-ordination and asset intensive processes.

They recognized three driving forces pushing the industry towards platform based solutions:

  • New infrastructure and technology
  • Richer and more visible logistics data, and,
  • Relentless pressure to reduce costs

With Maersk and IBM’s recent partnership on TradeLens to manage global shipments across multiple stakeholders and Singapore’s Transport Integrated Platform connecting logistic stakeholders, there is certainly movement being made in the industry. But we have yet to see a major player announce their own blockchain system or seen one which truly crosses multiple stages of the cold chain.

HBR closes their analysis with the bold statement; “while any move into platform-based logistics has its risks, the bigger risk would be to ignore the trend”.

It’s undeniable that the distributed ledger technology of Blockchain is a highly attractive proposal for the pharmaceutical logistics industry, but is it really a practical endeavour?

Speaking to Pharma IQ, Marc Gardette warned companies to not be tempted by the hype and instead view the decision to explore a blockchain solution as a business proposition.

As he put it, “think about:

  • What is the process?
  • What kind of business problem are we trying to solve?
  • Who are the participants in the process?
  • What are the responsibilities?
  • What is the situation before and after?”

He is keen to emphasize the importance of being clear on why you are actually considering a blockchain solution and the true impact of this decision.

ROI is a key factor of any endeavour. Without a clear plan in place for how best to use these type of systems and how these will integrate with current platforms and processes, then companies will struggle to secure a return.

Although, blockchain has the potential to transform the way the industry communicates and shares information across their partnerships, the platform is still at an early stage maturity and projects should be explored with this in mind.

Other industries, such as consumer goods, have been able to take advantage of data sharing via platform solutions to achieve logistics savings. But acheiveing this level of collaboration using blockchain in such a tightly controlled and regualted industry like pharmaceuticals will be highly difficult in the foreseeable future.