BMW, Marelli Expand Blockchain Parts Management
It may not be the most exciting blockchain application, but supply chain management could be one of the most impactful near-term uses for the emerging technology.
Several carmakers and suppliers already have begun blockchain pilot programs. The cloud-based system uses a decentralized network to securely share data without the need for a central authority. The most famous example to date is the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
Automotive Supply Chain
Deploying blockchain throughout the automotive supply chain process promises to improve parts and transaction tracking, transparency and adherence to standards. Proponents say the system also has the potential to reduce costs and enhance overall logistics efficiency.
BMW Group, an early champion of blockchain systems, aims to create an open platform that will allow data within supply chains to be exchanged and shared safely and anonymized across the industry with no risk of manipulation.
Last year, BMW and Marelli (formerly Magneti Marelli) launched a pilot program to their jointly developed “PartChain” system.
The test program tracked the purchase, production and delivery of parts between three of Marelli’s Automotive Lighting unit’s facilities (one each in the Czech Republic, Italy and Mexico) and BMW’s vehicle assembly plants in Dingolfing, Germany, and Spartanburg, S.C.
In this application, the Partchain platform managed more than 100,000 data interactions, tracing headlamps, rear lamps and lighting modules supplied by Marelli Automotive Lighting for various BMW vehicles.
BMW plans to expand its program to 10 other suppliers this year. The carmaker eventually aims to roll out the technology to its entire supply chain, including the traceability of raw materials from mine to smelter.
By sharing data immediately, BMW notes, blockchain enables users to constantly track and verify the status of an order. The process also eliminates duplicate efforts and communication shortfalls between independent IT systems.
Daimler and Volkswagen are testing supplier blockchain initiatives too.
Marelli’s Automotive Lighting unit also is expanding its program. In addition to working with other OEM customers, the company plans to involve its own suppliers.
Image: Marelli Automotive Lighting
Blockchain can help improve the transparency, authenticity, reliability and efficiency of increasingly complex value chains, says Sylvain Dubois, who heads Marelli Automotive Lighting.
The next step, according to the company, will be to use PartChain’s data authenticity capabilities to reduce the risk of counterfeit parts in the aftermarket.
More Auto Blockchains
BMW is a charter member of the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) consortium formed in mid-2018, which now has more than 120 participating organizations. Other top automotive members include Bosch, Denso, Faraday Future, Ford, General Motors, Honda, IBM, Renault and ZF.
In addition to supply chain management, other potential auto-related blockchain programs include:
- Third-party telematics transactions
- Independent ride-sharing networks
- Data sharing for connected and autonomous vehicle systems
Late last year, MOBI members BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda and Renault began testing a blockchain-based identification system that enables automatic payments for parking and road tolls. The program assigns digital IDs to participating vehicles that can be read by specially equipped infrastructure devices, thereby allowing a vehicle to be tracked and charged the appropriate parking or toll fees without motorists having to stop and pay or use specialized tags.
MOBI details other potential applications in a white paper posted on its site. Additional information about the blockchain protocol is available here.
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