DHL joins with Accenture on blockchain project in pharma

DHL and Accenture say they are collaborating on a blockchain-based serialization project in the pharma industry that will couple track-and-trace with product verification.

The prototype simulation – described in a new Blockchain in Logistics report published by the two partners – has “successfully demonstrated track-and-trace of pharmaceutical products from manufacturing to patients, showing potential to eliminate counterfeiting of drugs,” they claim.

“A key serialization challenge is maintaining traceability and transparency especially when these units are repackaged or aggregated from unit to case to pallet for logistics purposes and then disaggregated back down to unit level for consumption,” says the report.

“The DHL/Accenture proof-of-concept was established to overcome this and other challenges by demonstrating the effectiveness of blockchain technology in product verification.”

The partners described blockchain as a new type of database system that maintains, records and authenticates data and transactions. Products are assigned unique identifiers that allow their entire history to be captured as it moves to the end customer. Stakeholders validate this information in real time and – if anyone tries to tamper with, alter or erase a record – every partner in the supply chain will know.

The simulation covered a global network of supply chain nodes across six geographies, with the system documenting each stage of the supply chain from production to purchase. To put the system through its paces the partners processed more than 7 billion unique serial numbers at more than 1,500 transactions per second.

Blockchain was first used in finance and has started to gain traction in the food/beverage and consumer goods sectors. But DHL and Accenture say that applying it to logistics –particularly in the pharmaceutical industry – could have a profound impact.

“Implementing productive solutions however, will require further technological development and, critically, collaboration between all stakeholders,” said Matthias Heutger, senior vice president of customer solutions and innovation at DHL.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), global spending on blockchain solutions is forecast to reach $2.1bn in 2018, more than double the $945m spent in 2017, and grow five-fold to almost $10bn by 2021.

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