Tag Archives: disruption

Innovation: Blockchain survey

From Deloitte comes their Deloitte Blockchain Survey 2017.  It’s an online report of their findings.  The report is about investing and executive views in the blockchain technology.  There’s a lot of floundering as you would expect from a new technology that’s poorly understood, and whose possible applications are not well understood either.

Deloitte Logo  via Innovation: Blockchain survey | Deloitte US

Stifel Top 10 “Game Changers” in Logistics

This is the first  of two articles on the investment firm Stifel’s opinion of the top game changers in Logistics.  It’s a summary of the report Stifel recently issued.

One of their interesting views is that for all the talk of automation coming, actually in logistics people are seeing shortages of blue collar workers to do the jobs that are needed now. the automation isn’t coming fast enough to help firms with a problem getting labor. Their argument points to autonomous trucks and the world wide driver shortage.  Autonomous trucks are coming, but nowhere near fast enough to replace the dozens of folks leaving truck driving now.   It won’t bail us out.

Another point they make is that the e-commerce strategy of placing inventory further forward in the supply chain to be closer to customers may come up against a real shortage of places to put it, particularly in urbanized areas.  This makes Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods look very good indeed as a strategy.

Supply Chain Digest Logo  via Supply Chain News: Stifel Releases Its Top 10 “Game Changers” in the Logistics and Transportation Arena

Why Is Blockchain Not Hotter? Supply Chain Brief commentary

Lora Cecere, the Supply Chain Shaman, makes some interesting points in this article on blockchain adoption. I’m going to comment a bit below after you look at Lora’s brief note:

 

   I was sitting with a representative from the United Nations on my way back from Colombia. As we took off from Bogota, we discussed the potential of blockchain to help her with feeding children in the highlands of the Colombian-Venezuelan border.

Source: Top Supply Chain Brief Supply Chain Transportation Content for August, 2017

Lora is certainly right about the complexity compared to conventional business systems, and the obscurity of the data structure. For all their issues in the early days, relational databases were essentially rather a transparent structure. And they succeeded where networked and linked databases, more complex structures, did not. It wasn’t till Excel became commonplace that people really ‘got’ the table structure of relational databases. As Lora indicates, there is certainly not organizational readiness– certainly not enough professionals trained to understand and communicate what’s going on in the system to ordinary folk– the famous ‘business translators’ McKinsey, the consulting group, says are in such short supply.

And she’s right about the security issue. While blockchain is touted as more secure, the recent history of the bitcoin movement detailed here (https://blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-segwit/) indicates that frequent issues have arisen, are still not settled, and are still emerging.

Her last issue, more sticks than carrots, I found interesting. But this is typical of the economics of very competitive industries. At the limit of perfect competition there is no profit; all the extra gains, or ‘rents’ as economists call them, go to the providers of inputs. In the case of blockchain, that will be the miners.

Another point not mentioned by Lora is the fact that blockchain systems rely on economic incentives to work.  Unlike ERP, for instance, in blockchain there must be compensation for the work of processing each transaction. That might be considered a strength– you can’t escape transaction costs or hide them– but it’s also a weakness, as detailed in the excellent blockgeeks writeup above.  Every aspect of blockchain involves incentives, and if they are not at the right level, for all the participants, the system fails to function well. It may in fact blow up, and no one has responsibility. Humpty-Dumpty cannot be put back together.

Finally the economics at root has to relate to the actual money that users spend and get. In blockchain, of course, the transactions are ‘monetized’ in terms of a ‘cryptocurrency’ such as bitcoin or the ethereum currency– it’s embedded in the system. While these are a very small part of a company’s exposure, it doesn’t matter much how the currency is translated into real dollars or euros. But when it becomes big, the accountants and SEC are going to start asking how much real money is this.  Now the value of bitcoin over time has been much publicized– we’ve all heard of ‘bitcoin millionaires’, who bought a small amount of bitcoins only to see them jump in value many times.  But recently bitcoin has been a very volatile currency, changing value relative to dollars for instance by very large percentages in a very short time. this could make for massive fluctuation on the books of large trading companies who are using a blockchain system for managing say ocean logistics or freight contracts as their only business; say a freight forwarder. Someone is going to force them to declare how much in their book currency all this is worth. That will require massive adjustments as the conversion rate of the cryptocurrency, which is very thinly traded, with respect to say the dollar changes.

As evidence that some are concerned, we only need to look at the fact that the Chinese government has banned ICO’s (initial coin offerings) of cryptocurrencies by Chinese companies. They see the problem, and they are determined to prevent it obscuring or diluting value.