By Jack Kelly
As industries continue to seek new innovative ways to uphold the latest legislation – Modern Slavery Bill 2017 – designed to increase transparency, one solution is worth considering: supply chain technology.
The global nature of supply chains makes it incredibly difficult for businesses to monitor and regulate ongoing practices and activities. Consequently, a dependency on technology is beginning to bloom in the corporate world. Its ability to simplify, organise and check existing data is far more practical and appealing when compared to the potential risk for human error in the workplace. Logistically speaking, supply chain technology is far superior.
What are the supply chain technology breakthroughs in this area?
One example of a technological breakthrough is Blockchain. This software enables a clear visibility and transparency about the transfer of goods. It retains information such as the price, date, location, quality and state of the product as well as any other information that is relevant to managing the supply chain. The system cannot be hacked and is available for public use. In addition, Blockchain makes it possible to trace back every product to the very origin of the raw material used. In other words, suppliers would not be able to manipulate the data to deflect any errors that they may have made in the production process. Provenance has a trace-ability system for building and material products and this allows businesses to communicate with consumers at the point of sale. This information has been collected collaboratively with suppliers along a supply chain.
For such a large array of information, it would be necessary for businesses to compile and organise such material. Enter FlashTrac. FlashTrac is a computerised management software that allows you to streamline a supply chain and, therefore, create an easier, cheaper and more accurate shipping process. Microsoft developed this core software, which aims to scale up business, gain productivity and optimise solutions for customers.
Another means to increase supply chain transparency is by using application technology. Some businesses make it compulsory for workers in supply chains to download an app on their phones that acts as a means to contact them if there are any problems. This avoids workers feeling intimidated by their superiors. Smartphones are at their disposal too. Moreover, there are apps that can scan a product to provide specific data.
A popular form of technology used nowadays is social media. Businesses use social media to gain visibility but it is lagging behind in terms of usage for supply chain management. With 300 million Twitter users and a billion users on Facebook, you can directly contact suppliers from a logical platform. The increase of supply chain transparency will affectively deter businesses from risking exploitation and non-compliance. Furthermore, this will prevent mother businesses from turning a blind eye about potential or existing problems in their supply chains.
Overall, the use of technology has a positive effect in terms of increasing supply chain transparency. However, a notable concern for businesses is that the balance of power has shifted in favour of the consumer. The problem with increasing transparency is simply the question of, ‘How much information should be made public?’ . Likewise, there is a potential risk that too much information could drive customers away.
If a company is benefiting from a certain product or raw material, it would be easy for other businesses to identify and locate where they sourced it. Sensitive material would no longer be sensitive. Therefore, the business world loses creativity and innovation. Everyone would copy whoever was performing best.
The Third Modern Slavery & Human Rights in Supply Chain Summit is taking place on 19-20 April 2018 in Central London. Leading businesses and key policymakers will be speaking such as Anglo American, Co-op, Debenhams, M&S, Engie and Sanofi. Find out more at – https://front-group.co.uk/modernslavery/
Photo credit – Flickr/ abdullah.khan2012