Speaking on the Industry 4.0 Panel at the Consensus 2018 event in New York City, May 15, 2018, from left: CoinDesk’s Brady Dale; Sarah Banks, managing director, global freight & logistics, F&L blockchain lead, Accenture Labs; GE Ventures Managing Director David Rosenberg; Spherity GmbH CEO Carsten Stocker; James Allen Regenor, director, transformative technologies, at Moog Inc. PHOTO: STEVEN NORTON / THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
NEW YORK — Just as blockchain technology can help trace food from farm to table, so too might it help manufacturers certify and trace 3-D-printed parts through their supply chains.
Speaking at the Consensus 2018 conference, panelists described how distributed ledger technology could create an immutable data source that identifies 3-D-printed parts down to the machine that made them, the technician who worked with them, and the atmospheric conditions under which they were produced.
Firms throughout the supply chain could use that data, shared on a common, unalterable ledger, to certify the provenance of parts, ensure they were manufactured properly, and quickly identify the source of any defects.
“Right now it takes companies months to go through papers to distill where the fault is,” said James Regenor, business unit director for transformative technologies at Moog Inc., which manufactures systems and components in the aerospace, defense and industrial sectors, among others. A distributed ledger could create a trusted — and ideally unbiased — source of information for manufacturers and their customers throughout the supply chain.
“Because we have audit trails, we don’t have to have the part in front of us to trust that it was built the right way,” Mr. Regenor said.
Large firms are experimenting with blockchain to track food through the supply chain. The technology could prove especially helpful during recalls or other food safety scenarios, allowing firms to figure out the source of an offending item during a recall. FedEx Corp. on Monday said it was developing technology that would allow it to monitor shipments beyond its own tracking systems.
Panelists Tuesday noted that useful blockchain systems will require all parties involved to agree on how data is stored and shared across the network, a governance challenge that will take significant time to complete. They also noted potential security issues, as well as the need to be able to move data among blockchains while preserving immutability.