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IBM And Walmart Address Supply Chain Concerns With the Blockchain

Reading Time: 2 minutes by on October 20, 2016 Business, News, Tech
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Using a distributed ledger to track and ensure the safety of pork meat through China is not a use case most people would anticipate. IBM and Walmart are partnering up to do exactly that, though, as the retail giant wants to increase trust among Chinese consumer as far as their meat is concerned.

It is encouraging for adoption to see these companies look at blockchain technology and identify uses outside of the financial sector. Supply chains can benefit a lot from distributed ledgers, as it increases transparency and can improve consumer trust. Walmart and IBM have been thinking along these same lines, to improve on the existing processes of manual inspection and paper tracking.

Similarly to other major retailers, Walmart has multiple supply chains of their own. One of those chains brings pork meat to their US and Canada stores, even though these products have to move through China. While there is nothing wrong with that, Walmart is very concerned over any potential outbreak of diseases occurring after the transit of their meat products.

To be more precise, the Chinese food industry does not have a favourable reputation these days. Particularly the agricultural sector is in the crosshairs, as they do not always take food safety mandates to heart. After the Chinese government revised the safety regulations in 2008, better record-keeping and more supervision have become mandatory. But the overhaul can be taken to the next level with innovative technologies, such as the blockchain.

Preventing disaster is always better than fixing the problem once the damage has been done. By collaborating with IBM and Tsinghua University in Beijing, Walmart wants to digitally track every stage of the iteneiray  their pork supply in China. Quite an interesting use case for blockchain technology and one that will provide valuable information to both the retailer and its customers.

IBM’s Global Supply Chain lead Paul Chang stated the following:

“This trial represents a substantial improvement over earlier projects, which relied on barcodes and radio ID tags. The missing piece was a shared forum where companies could begin to see each others’ transactions and develop trust. That missing piece is something like the blockchain.”


This proof of concept will be built on top of the Hyperledger project and serve as a permissioned ledger of information. By embracing this technology, Walmart will obtain real-time and immutable information as to how their meat has been processed. This also means the company can track all movements starting at the producer, all the way to the grocer and the consumer, as the press release states:

“…digital product information such as farm origination details, batch numbers, factory and processing data, expiration dates, storage temperatures and shipping detail are digitally connected to food items and the information is entered into the blockchain along every step of the process. Each piece of information provides critical data points that could potentially reveal food safety issues with the product.”


All of this goes to show blockchain technology has many use cases. Providing a way to ensure food is safe from contamination is a positive development for the industry as a whole. Bringing more transparency to the entire supply chain process is direly needed, as consumers demand to know more about the specific products they buy these days.

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