World first - tracing the leather supply chain through blockchain technology
Nottingham University Business School researchers are involved in a world-first trial to track the entire leather production process using blockchain technology to trace the material from start to finish.
Funded by Innovate UK, this project is a partnership involving Nottingham University Business School, Jaguar Land Rover, supply chain traceability provider, Circulor, and the Bridge of Weir Leather Company.
Led by Professor of Operations Management, Bart MacCarthy, researchers carried out a feasibility study to see if was possible to trace the leather from its origin on Scottish farms to a tannery that supplies leather to the car industry. A combination of GPS data, biometrics and QR codes was used to digitally verify the movement of the leather at every step of the way using blockchain technology.
The team also investigated the potential to extend and scale these solutions to the manufacture and upholstering of car seats and to globally sourced leather, which mainly comes from South America.
“Jaguar Land Rover were aware of the Nottingham University Business School's expertise in supply chain and the success of the project was helped by having key players from the supply chain actively involved, as well as a software platform company,” Bart explained.
A blueprint for tracking leather at every stage
Their approach to the project involved mapping and analysing operational product flows, detailed discussion with participants on existing systems and methods, and extensive secondary data analysis of the industry.
The team created a ‘digital twin’ of the raw material, so its progress could be tracked through the leather supply chain at the same time in the real world and digitally.
PhD scholarship student Wafaa Ahmed is part of the Nottingham University Business School team. She said:
Despite its great potential, it is important to critically assess the challenges for an effective blockchain deployment within different supply network configurations. This project has brought in diverse expertise to better understand and develop a strategic roadmap for blockchain adoption in the leather supply chain
The Nottingham University Business School team were able to identify a level of blockchain-enabled traceability that could be scaled up without significantly affecting existing operations.
The project is funded by Innovate UK on behalf of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge.