Track and trace your steel: How DLT is helping steel companies improve traceability
David Coleman, Chief Product Officer at iov42
Increasing pressures from the government to decarbonise the UK economy has forced many British steel companies to face up to inefficient and environmentally damaging processes – especially as the sector released more than 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2021 alone.
An essential step in achieving net-zero will be implementing technology that can improve the tracking and tracing of goods across the steel supply chain. Not only can this help the industry become greener, but more efficient too.
In December last year, 28 countries across Europe, the Middle East & Africa, recorded cargo losses of more than €17 million in 31 days, due to stolen freights. Despite the size of steel itself, the loss of shipments in general is all too common. Cargo is often lost due to improper handling that results in them being mislaid, mislabelled, or failing to arrive at their agreed destination – something that can be drastically improved by delivery visibility.
And this is where digitisation comes in. Advanced technologies like Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) can help enable solutions like electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) and digital product passports (DPPs) that can improve the transparency, security and efficiency at multiple stages of the product’s journey.
DLT provides a secure and transparent platform for businesses to build trusted data networks that allow anyone, with specific permissions, to access, input and validate information across a supply chain. Crucially, it allows them to do this securely, with encryption at the heart of each transaction.
With the combination of DLT-driven solutions like ePODs and DPPs, companies can better monitor key information relating to a product’s journey – such as the date and place a product was made, the handing over of goods at a specific destination, its environmental footprint or any alterations.
So, what exactly is ePOD and DPP, what challenges are they solving, and how can their approach to tracking and tracing steel lead to greener and more efficient processes?
Track: Ensuring steel is delivered correctly with ePODs
The steel industry has multiple challenges when it comes to manual processes in the delivery of its related goods. They include: the reliance on insecure paper-based systems, a lack of authenticity guarantees, disputes relating to delivery and receipt of goods and reliance on third parties for data services.
However, ePOD has the ability to digitise and collect information about the delivery progress, including digital signatures, that can be shared with relevant stakeholders to better track and validate the arrival of shipments. This is a game changer in ensuring products are correctly identified upon delivery, with the provision of secure digital identities, time stamping and systems that work with what companies already have.
By integrating ePOD, steel companies gain access to indisputable evidence of information relating to the delivery and receipt of goods and digital contracts that help them enforce payments to all parties involved in the haulage process.
Speeding up these admin processes means companies can work more efficiently, react to crises or disruptions more quickly, and provide superior customer service to their clients.
Trace: Increasing supply chain visibility with digital product passports
While the ePOD system enables guaranteed delivery, technology like DPP brings the essential component of greater transparency in the import and export of goods. A more transparent approach to tracing products in supply chains is essential for organisations as they continue to navigate incoming policies relating to social responsibility and the environment in the UK.
DPPs enable businesses to keep comprehensive records of a product’s journey from start to finish and beyond, enhanced by technologies like IoT devices, RFID tags and NFCs that can help collect and record data to be stored on the immutable DLT system. This keeps all the relevant information in one place for stakeholders to reduce the lengthy delays suppliers usually face when providing proof of regulatory compliance.
It can also improve the facilitation of real-time communication and trust between stakeholders – such as suppliers, customers or logistics companies. This is because they all have one source of truth to access wherever they are that keeps track of insights and risks. So, there is less friction in communications, and each person can proactively monitor progress with a single click.
Moving towards a sustainable future
Tackling the challenges of digitisation in the steel industry has not been easy – especially with no standardised solution. Inefficient processes have resulted in environmental and financial costs for businesses, for example Barclay’s revealed that £23.6 billion worth of goods are awaiting completion due to supply chain delays.
Fixing this takes the right technology and an increase in collaboration and trust in the industry. Stakeholders need that drive to put in the investment to deliver high-quality data about material sourcing and environmental impact.
And DLT has proved that it can be that foundation for businesses to actively move towards a more sustainable future across global supply chains. In partnership with technology like ePOD and DPP, the industry can make its drive to achieve more efficient processes, and commitment to a greener economy a reality.