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Blockchain technology: implications for operations and supply chain management

Rosanna Cole (Business School, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)
Mark Stevenson (School of Management, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
James Aitken (Business School, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 15 May 2019

Issue publication date: 11 June 2019

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to encourage the study of blockchain technology from an operations and supply chain management (OSCM) perspective, identifying potential areas of application, and to provide an agenda for future research.

Design/methodology/approach

An explanation and analysis of blockchain technology is provided to identify implications for the field of OSCM.

Findings

The hype around the opportunities that digital ledger technologies offer is high. For OSCM, a myriad of ways in which blockchain could transform practice are identified, including enhancing product safety and security; improving quality management; reducing illegal counterfeiting; improving sustainable supply chain management; advancing inventory management and replenishment; reducing the need for intermediaries; impacting new product design and development; and reducing the cost of supply chain transactions. The immature state of practice and research surrounding blockchain means there is an opportunity for OSCM researchers to study the technology in its early stages and shape its adoption.

Research limitations/implications

The paper provides a platform for new research that addresses gaps in knowledge and advances the field of OSCM. A research agenda is developed around six key themes.

Practical implications

There are many opportunities for organisations to obtain an advantage by making use of blockchain technology ahead of the competition, enabling them to enhance their market position. But it is important that managers examine the characteristics of their products, services and supply chains to determine whether they need or would benefit sufficiently from the adoption of blockchain. Moreover, it is important that organisations build human capital expertise that allows them to develop, implement and exploit applications of this technology to maximum reward.

Originality/value

This is one of the first papers in a leading international OSCM journal to analyse blockchain technology, thereby complementing a recent article on digital supply chains that omitted blockchain.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the University of Surrey Research Theme Sustainability for conference support to gain valuable feedback on this paper. The authors also thank Boston Consulting Group for permissions to reproduce the Value of Trust and Automation Matrix for Blockchain.

Citation

Cole, R., Stevenson, M. and Aitken, J. (2019), "Blockchain technology: implications for operations and supply chain management", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 469-483. https://doi.org/10.1108/SCM-09-2018-0309

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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