How a blockchain application can work for the pharmaceutical supply chain

Supply chain complexity only grows year to year. The risk of transport damage, negligent transport conditions or long delays are huge pain points in the industry. Today, the transport process is often manual using paper contracts and documents scanned in by hand and sent by email. This process requires humans to do many processes manually.


The possibilities of transport control, time of delivery or quality of transport are difficult and time-consuming. At the same time, clients demand more and more sophisticated tracking details. Now is the time to automate with a blockchain supply chain application. However, this process may not be so straightforward. The way the industry works now depends on companies trusting each other.  


Pharmaceutical supply chain – logistics woes

It may seem that the optimization processes in the transport industry are not so simple. Expectations are very high in relation to technology, however, the level of complexity of processes and logistics does not facilitate the task. The transport industry goal is digitizing documents, building trust and automating of verification. 


Today the supply chain based on blockchain technology is able to satisfy some of the main frictions. IBM, together with shipping giant Maersk has tested this solution in their pilot project TradeLens. The simplified process of how the supply chain works shows the picture below. We have many more of the same solutions in the world. This leads to the belief that the solution meets its expectations by reducing red tape and high administrative costs.

pharmaceutical supply chain


Espeo delivers dedicated IT solutions to our clients globally. With over a decade of experience in the field, we’re constantly updating our technology stack. 


We decided to create a mobile application written in the React Native programming language based on the public Ethereum blockchain. This application simulates the supply chain operation for the medical industry and drug transport.

pharmaceutical supply chain

Pharmaceutical supply chain management app

Our application has three stages. As we see the first stage is registration and dispatch drug for transport. This is a two-step process that works in the background. In the first step, we register our item on the blockchain. At the same time, our drug receives a public key to identify the drug at each stage of its transport. Once users register items, they can hand them over to the transport company.

Here’s where the blockchain comes in. To register the handover, app users sign a smart contract using the QR code scanner. Each of the sides must sign a smart contract with their private key, which triggers information about transport on the blockchain.


We should know that in the real world where we use the supply chain solutions we would need IoT devices as well. IoT technology is nothing more than small devices mounted on ships or in containers, for example. Information retrieved from these devices can be saved on the blockchain in real-time. This information can be different for instance: temperature, humidity, and location. We can monitor transport in real-time. Saving this information collected by IoT devices and saved on blockchain gives us a lot of certainty about trust in the quality of data than doing these actions manually by third parties.


The next stage is the delivery of the product to retailers. This process also requires signing a smart contract using private keys by the transport company and the recipient. Signing a smart contract saves the blockchain information that a product has been delivered and received.


The last functionality in our application is the ability to check the entire path that our product overcame and under which conditions. Such information is very helpful not only for the pharmacy itself but also can be helpful to a final customer who may want to check that the medicine has been transported correctly. One example is insulin, which has to be kept at a constant temperature to remain effective. This type of solution may open up possibilities for greater quality control and less waste in transport. 


Conclusion

The potential for blockchain supply chain solutions together with IoT devices is considerable. The impact that these technologies already have and will have in the future seems large. Not only optimizing many individual processes but also changing the current rules of transport. For more information on how our proof-of-concept application works, and ways to customize it for your business, drop us a line.


Video filmed and edited by Jacob Dunn with help from Sandra Żrałka, Tomasz Cichowicz, and Marcin Rzetecki