Freight and logistics industry could save hundreds of millions with blockchain

07 May 2018 5 min. read

Leading consultancy Accenture has developed a bold blockchain solution that could save the global freight and logistics industry hundreds of millions of pounds each year. Successfully tested by an industry consortium, the breakthrough eliminates the need for printed shipping documents.

Working closely with some of the freight and logistics world’s biggest players, global consultancy Accenture has brought blockchain technology to the high seas. The leading professional services firm’s digital solution to inefficiency is projected to transform the sector and save its clients and partners billions in the long run.

The Dublin-incorporated IT specialist plays a leading developmental role in a newly formed logistics industry consortium which has set itself the challenge of radically reinventing current documentation processes.

Other members include APL — a leading ocean carrier whose shipping services are complemented by cutting edge IT solutions — and Anheuser-Busch InBev — a giant of the beer world with a brand portfolio that includes Budweiser and Corona. Also playing a crucial role is the Kuehne + Nagel Group, which provides IT logistics solutions to the seafreight, airfreight, contract logistics and overland business sectors.

Together the firms —each leaders in their respective industries — have settled on a blockchain-based solution that radically speeds up the flow of transport documents, streamlines the shipping process, reduces customer risk, bulletproofs compliance mechanisms and cuts back on burdensome data entry by 80%.

Blockchain silver bullet to transform shipping

It is one of the first, successfully tested and public examples of blockchain technology being deployed in the international shipping sector. Blockchain is a decentralised software mechanism that permits a master ledger of data and transactions to be accessed securely by multiple stakeholders. Accenture is one of the largest global consultancies considered a key mover and shaker in this dynamic digital arena. Alongside CognizantDeloitte and Synechron, it is one of the major consultancies supporting the world’s largest blockchain consortium.

Trial run

Manifested in the maritime sector, Accenture’s blockchain solution cuts out the need to physically, or even digitally, exchange shipping documents. Instead, all the stakeholders involved along the supply chain were able to instantly access and update the data relevant to their needs on a secure system.

Twelve real life shipments using the blockchain solution were tested by the consortium, which was intentionally representative of the actors involved in a typical international shipment. AB InBev was the exporter; APL the shipping organisation; and Kuehne + Nagel the freight forwarder. A European customs organisation was drafted in to implement strict regulatory hurdles.

Presently, a typical international shipment of consumer goods can necessitate the filling out and updating of more than 20 separate documents. The cost benefit of a paperless, time saving, and more secure process speaks for itself. With Accenture leveraging its deep expertise in the Internet of Things and consulting prowess, the 12 tests were successful and spell the beginning of the end for physical shipping documents.

“Our trials have proven the viability of a shipping process in which many documents can be replaced by secure and distributed data sharing with clear and defined ownership,” said Adriana Diener-Veinott, who leads Accenture’s Freight & Logistics industry practice. “This gives companies a significant opportunity to save time and money while improving their service to customers.”

Equally enthusiastic was Eddie Ng, head of Strategic Liner Development at APL, who hailed the potential of 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”.

“We are therefore happy to be part of the exciting journey to explore how disruptive technology like blockchain can benefit our industry, and ultimately our shippers and their customers,” he added.

Offering a client perspective, Danilo Figueiredo, VP of International Logistics at AB InBev, said, “Blockchain technology will be transformational to our business and the world. It reduces mistakes, digitises information and improves the supply chain process so we can focus on our core business of brewing the best beers for consumers.”