Here, Scott Allison, president, Life Sciences & Healthcare, DHL, and Keith Turner, CIO Chief Development Office, Life Sciences & Healthcare, Service Logistics, DHL Supply Chain, look at the importance of blockchain in logistics.
In the life sciences and healthcare industry, everyone is anticipating far-reaching change with the introduction of mandatory global serialisation for pharmaceuticals. New rules to ensure product integrity all the way from manufacturing to consumption may save as many as a million lives each year — Interpol’s estimate of patient deaths caused by counterfeit drugs.
We would argue, though, that more profound change is just around the corner — a level of transformation that will impact the entire life sciences and healthcare industry. Now is a great time to investigate the possibilities of a rapidly maturing technology known as blockchain. Applied the right way, this technology will take track and trace serialisation to the next level, cutting costs, elevating security and trust, eliminating error-prone data movements and enabling real-time supply chain transparency.
Why is blockchain important to logistics?
Blockchain is an important part of today’s increasingly digitalised logistics. It can authenticate and track every important event in the production and movement of a product in a way that makes fraud nearly impossible. This ability to authenticate products through a seamless, uninterrupted chain of custody is especially interesting as a way to protect against counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals and ensure the greatest possible transparency along the supply chain.
Who knows about blockchain?
DHL and Accenture have together extensively explored and evaluated the usability and scalability of blockchain in the life sciences and healthcare industry.
We have established a blockchain-based track and trace serialisation system in six distinct geographies worldwide, populated by more than seven billion unique pharmaceutical serial numbers and handling more than 1,500 transactions per second. Along the way, we have learned lessons from other industries already using this technology: the diamond, livestock and finance industries (blockchain is the technology behind Bitcoin).
What can it do for life sciences?
Blockchain is a distributed ledger — a database that permits data to be broadcast to all authorised stakeholders in the supply chain but forbids fake data. Manufacturers, warehouses, distributors, pharmacies, hospitals, doctors and especially patients are rewarded with what we call ‘a shared version of the truth’.
When a life sciences or healthcare company creates a unique serial number for a unit of medication or piece of equipment, this number is scanned, captured and verified at the point of origin. Using blockchain, as each item moves through the supply chain, additional verified information is appended. These blocks of data cannot be tampered with and are collectively validated by all stakeholders. The result is an end-to-end system that is simpler and more secure than anything we have seen before. It is more private, more transparent and more efficient, with less risk and it meets and exceeds global serialisation requirements.
This is just one of many use cases that will be highlighted in our upcoming trend report on blockchain.
When can we implement this system?
Right now we are moving our blockchain-based track and trace serialisation system out of the lab and into the supply chain. If your organisation is interested in establishing a pilot implementation, please get in touch— this is a genuine collaborative opportunity to rapidly build, test and assess blockchain capabilities within your own business and to contribute to reshaping the industry with this emerging, disruptive technology.
For a brief overview of our blockchain story so far, please click to watch our video. This technology is ideal when the supply chain involves many parties that are geographically spread, with high potential for mistrust and a pressing need for security, privacy and fraud prevention. Does this sound like your life sciences and healthcare supply chain? Please share your thoughts below.