Supply chain

Can fixing a logistics problem solve a major social challenge?

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wharehouseThe logistics sector in Japan faces two critical challenges. First, a labor shortage due to an aging society, and second, the need for logistics providers to adapt technologically to the changing e-commerce environment.

We can solve these challenges by doing two things. The first is to eliminate labor-intensive, paper-based processes, and the second is to connect all the siloed data across the supply chain.

First thing’s first: Eliminate paper-based processes

Japan Pallet Rental is the leading pallet rental company in Japan, with more than 40 years in the Returnable Transport Item (RTI) business. Most companies from retail and wholesale grocers to the household item industry use our pallets. We’re also a global company, operating across much of Asia and the United States. We connect customers from different industries across the supply chain with our pallet products.

When a customer asked why we hadn’t connected all the data associated with our business that’s scattered across the supply chain, I knew we had a mission.

As we started working, I realized that we had to solve the critical problem of eliminating our paper-based manual processes before we could connect the data.

After digitization: Blockchain implementation

To improve our paper-heavy processes, we are digitizing operations with mobile apps and Internet of Things (IoT) technology. To connect the supply chain data, we are working together with our customers to build a blockchain platform to promote data sharing among players in the supply chain.

IBM Services and the IBM Blockchain Platform are key in this two-pronged effort. We chose the IBM Blockchain Platform because IBM was the only vendor that clearly stated that the data belongs to the owner. In addition, IBM already has so many real-world use cases for blockchain. It’s not just theoretical.

We started small, not aiming for the perfect solution. We took an agile approach to development, so we could pilot and test our solutions. Right now, we are half way to our first goal of digitizing our paper-heavy processes.

One step at a time: From satisfied customers to a societal shift

Before we started this initiative, one of our customers told us that they wouldn’t continue to do business with us if we didn’t change our paper-heavy processes. At the time, weren’t sure what to do, but we simply started improving the processes. Today, that customer has become the greatest supporter of our initiative.

I believe that our efforts at reducing paper-based transactions and sharing data across the logistics industry will contribute to helping Japan solve the major social challenge of dealing with a labor shortage due to an aging society. We aspire to become a global model, serving as an example for other countries struggling with this issue.

Learn about IBM solutions for the logistics sector of the Travel & Transportation industry

Watch Naomi Kano discuss how Japan Pallet Rental Corp is using IBM Blockchain to solve critical challenges facing the logistics industry, both in Japan and worldwide:

From time to time, we invite industry thought leaders, academic experts and partners, to share their opinions and insights on current trends in blockchain to the Blockchain Pulse blog. While the opinions in these blog posts are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of IBM, this blog strives to welcome all points of view to the conversation.

President and CEO, Japan Pallet Rental Corporation

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