Walmart is ramping up its use of blockchain for food traceability in the U.S., but the retailer’s first wide-scale use of the technology in Canada is on the trucking side.
Walmart Canada has launched a blockchain-based freight and payment network in partnership with DLT Labs, a blockchain solutions provider. The new system uses blockchain to track deliveries, verify transactions, and automate payments between Walmart Canada and its carriers that deliver inventory to more than 400 stores nationally.
Blockchain is essentially a shared, encrypted ledger that stores and shares information in a peer-to-peer network. The technology allows users to view real-time data and transactions, permanently recorded into files called “blocks.”
A press release from Walmart Canada and DLT Labs states the new network integrates and synchronizes all supply chain and logistics data in real time, aggregating the data between Walmart Canada and its fleet of third-party trucks on a shared ledger. It also enables real-time invoicing, payments and settlement.
The solution uses a web portal and mobile application. It integrates with each company’s existing system, so they don’t have to retrain staff or invest in new technology.
Walmart Canada transports goods by a combination of third-party fleets and its own fleet. Each third-party trailer tracks approximately 200 data points per shipment. Automating this data collection and management using blockchain results in significant cost savings, according to Walmart Canada.
“Walmart Canada is dedicated to efficiency across our business, including most importantly in our supply chain and logistics management,” said John Bayliss, senior vice-president, logistics and supply chain at Walmart Canada, in the release.
“Blockchain is enabling a material advance in our smart transportation network, with expedited payments, extensive cost savings and other benefits among our supply chain.”
For the past couple of years, Walmart in the U.S. has been testing blockchain-based food traceability. As of September 2019, Walmart and its Sam’s Club division require suppliers of fresh, leafy greens to implement real-time, end-to-end traceability of products back to the farm using a blockchain solution developed by IBM.
The aim is to help reduce the number of people who fall ill during food incidents, while reducing losses for retailers and suppliers during a recall.
During last year’s romaine lettuce E-coli outbreak, it took the US Food and Drug Administration weeks to identify where the affected lettuce came from. That put blockchain in the headlines, with experts saying the technology would have identified the source must faster.
E. coli outbreak from lettuce brings traceability issues to light: Expert
In an initial blockchain pilot conducted by Walmart and IBM, the amount of time it took the retailer to trace mangoes from store to farm was reduced from seven days to just 2.2 seconds.