A consortium comprising AB InBev, Accenture, APL, Kuehne + Nagel and a European customs organization has successfully tested a blockchain solution aiming to eliminate the need for printed shipping documents and save the freight and logistics industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
The consortium tested a solution where documents are no longer exchanged physically or digitally but instead, the relevant data is shared and distributed using blockchain technology under single ownership principles determined by the type of information. Through a detailed review of the current documentation processes, the group examined a re-allocation of information ownership, accountability and risk enabled by the trust and security blockchain technology offers.
An international shipment of goods for companies in areas such as the automotive, retail or consumer goods industries typically requires more than 20 different documents, many of which are often paper-based, to enable the goods to move from exporter to importer. Across these documents, up to 70% of the data can be replicated. The document heavy approach limits data quality and real-time visibility to all parties involved in the trade and this can also delay the financial settlement on goods.
The solution can speed up the entire flow of transport documents, reduce the requirement for data entry by up to 80%, simplify data amendments across the shipping process, streamline the checks required for cargo and reduce the burden and risk of penalties for customs compliance.
The consortium, which represents typical stakeholders across an international shipment, collaborated to test 12 real shipments, with various destinations, each with different regulatory requirements. The tests confirmed that blockchain can reduce operating costs and increase supply chain visibility.
Under the process, AB InBev represented a typical exporter; APL contributed its role as a shipping organization; Kuehne + Nagel provided direction on the requirements for a freight forwarder and a European customs organization replicated the regulatory requirements that cargo faces. Accenture provided the technological and consulting expertise on the blockchain technology and developed the technical architecture required to support a blockchain solution, leveraging the capabilities of its Singapore Internet of Things practice to rapidly build the prototype.
Eddie Ng, head of Strategic Liner Management at APL, said:
As a facilitator of global trade and strong advocate of innovation, APL sees much potential in blockchain technology to accelerate the digital transformation of the container shipping industry, moving us from traditional paper-based transactions to more efficient, more secure and faster processes along the entire supply chain.
Martin Kolbe, Chief Information Officer of Kuehne + Nagel International AG, added:
Blockchain is one of the most promising technologies in logistics. It has the potential to digitalize many of today’s paper-based processes and overcome the multitude of different interfaces. From our perspective, the open and collaborative approach applied in this project is key to gaining traction in the industry and the required market acceptance.