The value-add of blockchain for businesses is estimated to grow into the trillions by 2030. Experts believe product recalls alone—estimated to cost $8 million today—could be practically eliminated through improved track and traceability enabled by blockchain.
Blockchain in manufacturing can help verify goods moving through the manufacturing supply chain. However, prior to implementing blockchain, some essentials are needed to ensure auditing, tracking and system versions are up to date. Information on a product’s version and location can be available extremely quickly using the right solution. It can help identify parts or materials that are defective and point to where would be the best source for materials.
For any blockchain project, sophisticated audit, tracking, and version control implementation should come first. This can impact product safety, track-and-traceability, warranty management, maintenance and repair & overhaul (MRO)—and increase safety overall for the smart, connected products segment.
Regulatory challenges and struggles with interoperability within a manufacturer supply chain are high on the list of hurdles manufacturers face in getting blockchain initiatives accepted and into production.
For the solution to function properly and save time, a certain degree of preparation and discipline is required on the part of production, operations and maintenance staff with regard to documentation. The structure of the production network, the assignment of permissions and the creation of different user groups must all be clarified.
This is especially true for manufacturers that invest considerable money every year in new machines, robots and peripheral devices such as Mann + Hummel, makers of liquid and air filter systems, intake systems, thermal management components and manifolds for the automotive industry. The firm’s six-day, three-shift production emphasizes maximizing availability and minimizing downtime. Its managers rely on an audit, tracking and version control solution to ensure this. They haven’t embarked on blockchain initiatives but instead first addressed making sure all production processes were up to par.
All of their machines are connected to an MES system, and every part of the production process is networked, so they can be fully monitored and all errors can be recorded. If a new machine is added, then it is allocated a new IP address, a network cable is connected and the communications module is installed. The machine can then run on the network.
Maintenance ports are also created so that a maintenance worker or external programmer can log in to the audit, tracking and version control solution to make programming changes to the production line. Remote maintenance is also controlled by the solution, which helps to ensure that the most recent version is always used.
Before embarking on blockchain projects, it is important to have everything in order internally with production lines. This is especially the case in the field of production management where audits can be critical for analyzing quality deficiencies and determining operational risks.
The evidence of improvement comes from audits and procedures to obtain ISO and similar certifications. Independent bodies are called upon to ensure a firm is meeting standards.
Without systematic checks of work processes, any deficiencies or potential areas for improvement in a company will usually be overlooked. When mandatory processes are revised and efficiency is improved, new opportunities can arise. Regularly reviewing business processes—or even just questioning them—can result in a process of continuous improvement.
Improving track-and-traceability and easing the audit production process are primary drivers across all manufacturers, given additional compliance requirements in highly regulated industries. It explains why automotive, aerospace and defense, medical devices and pharma are all exploring how blockchain can provide them a competitive edge.