The development of blockchain technology will help springboard the transport and logistics sector into decentralised, data-driven operations, Wincanton has predicted.
Experts have described blockchain as 'change-maker' technology for the logistics sector that will ultimately become an affordable and more efficient way to share information and data between open and private business networks.
For freight and last-mile delivery, blockchain offers the potential to track and trace all logsitics events, bringing transparency and accountability to the sector.
"Blockchain is a technology that enables people who don’t know each other to share a ledger and build trust," Wincanton chief information officer Richard Gifford told motortransport.co.uk. "The ledger is distributed to members of a network who then validate transactions, removing the need for a third party.
"At its core, blockchain represents a fundamental shift from centralised and human facilitated systems to decentralised and autonomous networks."
Gifford insited there were "significant implications" for blockchain within the logistics sector and that Wincaton had already begun exploring its potential.
"We recognise that our legacy systems are unable to prevent friction within many of the processes we run in our business today," he explained. "To address this we have already commenced a journey to becoming a data-driven organisation - the starting point where this type of technology can become a reality."
Many operators admit they are struggling to understand the complexities of blockchain and are unsure which apps or software might help them. However, Gifford said taking a data-driven approach opened up opportunities including the use of blockchain to enable frictionless processes within areas such as procurement, transportation management, track and trace, IoT, provenance, smart cities, customs collaboration and commercial finance.
"A simple example of this," he said, "could be how we use this type of technology within transport operations to commission insurance on a consumption basis similar to that of an aircraft's Black Box, whereby all parties are connected."
Asked whether blockchain will become increasingly important to operators or just another tool for developers, Gifford said: "Noise about blockchain is growing ever louder, but the technologies and concepts are poorly understood and unproven in mission-critical, at-scale business operations.
"While we need to be realistic about the technology and how it might scale, there is no shortage of innovative ideas within Wincanton when it comes to blockchain development. We are known for engaging our customers with innovative solutions.
"Initially we are keen to build upon and expand relationships with long-standing customers and technology partners as we have done through our W2 programme. This also presents an opportunity to springboard and forge new relationships with like-minded organisations that are keen to target blockchain’s core competency."
Added professor Birgitte Andersen, chief executive of London-based innovation think-tank Big Innovation Centre: “Blockchain will not only improve existing logistics operations. It will usher in a whole new wave of innovative business models and opportunities that will contribute to rapid sector growth. Before this can happen, however, collaboration models among stakeholders, data governance and regulation need to be thoroughly defined.”