Why a secured digital trail can add value
How does a secure digital trail of a product add value if there is no direct link to the physical product itself? An often heard question within the steel industry.Read article
Blockchain is a new technology still in development but has many unique attributes that can be easily implemented into many industries by creating trust, driving collaboration and being able to securely exchange data. A blockchain is a shared digital “ecosystem” or network used to securely store and exchange data with third parties. Blockchains are used to share data in ecosystems that are decentralised; meaning there is no single hierarchy leader. No individual member is able to single-handedly add, delete or modify information without validation of the other members in the ecosystem. This relies on predefined “consensus algorithms”.
Product certification in the steel industry is usually a product of an ecosystem of companies like laboratories, NDT companies, inspection companies, raw material suppliers, etc. All these parties take responsibility for a part of the final data associated with the steel product certification. Labs provide destructive test reports, inspection companies provide inspection reports, etc. All these companies must have specific accreditations and even the people taking responsibility for certain parts of the data must have valid personal certifications.
To keep control of all parts in the supply chain, end customers and notified inspection bodies to perform audits to ensure companies follow the correct procedures, personnel have the correct training and certifications, and their traceability systems are in order.
All quality related data is currently kept in “silos”, making it time consuming, and therefore more expensive, to keep track across companies. Hard and digital copies of Certificates, reports and accreditations are kept that require manual verification which can result in a lot of double work. e.g. Each customer performing their own audits in addition to audits by notified independent bodies.
This is where blockchain comes in, creating a digital steel certification blockchain keeps track of the data related to certification in the steel supply chain.
Every actor in this ecosystem takes responsibility for the data they add. All added data is recorded and the data cannot be tampered with. In addition, SteelTrace can automatically check the data for compliance against international standards and specifications, etc..
As every action or data input is recorded within the blockchain, every action is time stamped with the user ID and cannot be altered. This allows SteelTrace to create full traceability of who did what and when, making all users fully accountable for their actions or data inputs.
Hashing is a method used for compressing data, not the typical compression like a .zip or a .rar file. Hashing uses a hash algorithm to hash the data. Inputting the data into the hash algorithm creates a code, string of characters, which acts as a “fingerprint” of the input. Same input data gives the same hash output, a small change in input data has a big change in hash output.
SteelTrace uses the hash output as mathematical proof of the data. That is why SteelTrace stores the mathematical proof on the blockchain, in example the hash of the data of a test report, this way we can always verify that the data is authentic.
Digital signatures are used on the blockchain which are created by a mathematical algorithm. This algorithm is used to “hash” the data, which is then signed by the sender with their private key, which is part of their wallet. This data hash is added into the smart contract. Users then get a signed message that can be hashed with the public key of the sender. The hashes by the sending party and the hash in the smart contract will match to prove that the transaction has not been tampered with.
Supply chains are very complex systems with a lot of different players connected and dependent on each other. The various players in the supply chain have different goals and objectives. They can be hesitant to share specific data and do not always trust each other. This lack of trust and dependability makes blockchain so attractive for supply chains. Imagine better collaboration, improved trust and secure, traceable data exchange. As SteelTrace tracks the exchange of data, it creates full accountability and traceability. This creates a severer punishment for fraudulent users and force them to leave the ecosystems.
Quality management is all about standards, quality, trust and compliance, all of which blockchain can improve upon. Given all this, blockchain can improve quality management. Having immutable records of data with a time stamp is already a significant improvement by creating accountability and full traceability. Adding automated checking of data against international standards and specifications creates compliance by design. SteelTrace therefore creates significant improvements and benefits to quality management as it is known today.
SteelTrace is a platform that gathers all quality-related data of steel products in real time for the end-user to see. All test data, digital signatures and witness signatures are available and automatically checked.
The SteelTrace platform enables improvement of the following aspects;