Renault launches blockchain

Renault launches blockchain in drive to improve supply chain

XCEED has been built in response to tougher regulatory measures that mean entire production chains must be answerable to the authorities in a shorter timeframe

The carmaking giant Renault has launched a blockchain project that certifies the regulatory compliance of vehicle components and subcomponents—all the way through from the design to the production phase.

Known as XCEED (eXtended Compliance End-to-End Distributed,) the platform has been built using Hyperledger Fabric’s technology, and is being deployed in collaboration with IBM.

Renault said the tool was built in response to tougher EU market surveillance regulations that came into force at the beginning of September—changes that have meant the entire production chain needs to be able to respond to the authorities in a shorter timeframe.

The French company said blockchain information can be shared and tracked in real time, “underpinning competitiveness and operational excellence in the automotive industry.”

Through the trusted network, which connects parts makers and the vehicle manufacturer, each party maintains data control and confidentiality.

Several companies were involved in creating XCEED back in 2019—including the German manufacturing giant Continental, and fellow French suppliers such as Faurecia and Saint-Gobain. The technology was recently put through its paces at Renault’s plant in the northern France commune of Douai—and according to a release, the infrastructure managed to archive more than one million documents at a speed of 500 transactions per second. 

Calling blockchain a tool “for transforming the automotive industry,” Odile Panciatici, Renault Group’s blockchain vice president, said:

“Blockchain technology really comes into its own in a vast ecosystem involving a number of different companies, providing a link between the partners’ various processes, computer systems and databases.”

Panciatici added that there are multiple uses for blockchain technology in the automotive industry, which is heavily reliant on a large network of external suppliers, clients, and distributors.

Revving up the blockchain

Indeed, Renault isn’t the first carmaker to accelerate its blockchain use.

In March, Toyota publicly unveiled its blockchain lab, which had spent 11 months under the radar. This project is more consumer-facing than Renault’s—and focuses on giving motorists greater convenience through ID sharing, as well as improving the way they manage their personal information. However, it too aims to make its business processes more efficient by recording information on parts, shipping, and manufacturing. At the time, the Japanese company said the industry is undergoing a “once-in-a-century period of profound transformation.”

And, as reported by Modern Consensus in April, BMW is also revving up its use of blockchain technology. After completing initial trials successfully, the German brand is planning to use blockchain to ensure the provenance of raw materials and components is fully traceable in its international supply chain.

Why blockchain?

There have claims that blockchain is used unnecessarily—that this technology is a solution looking for a problem. But when it comes to the vast automotive industry, blockchain’s transparent and immutable nature could be a lifesaver… literally.

Manufacturers have long had to contend with the scourge of counterfeiters. As a blog post from the United Kingdom’s Intellectual Property Office noted, some of the most commonly counterfeited parts include filters, brake disks and linings, lights and headlights, and bodywork panels—all of which are pretty crucial to a vehicle running safely. The government body warned:

“Cheap, counterfeit vehicle parts appeal to consumers, but they risk lives, compromise performance, damage the environment and put the long-term future of the motor industry at risk.”

Now there’s no suggestion that such counterfeit parts are entering the official supply chains of major carmakers—by and large, this tends to be an issue when consumers are acquiring aftermarket parts. Nonetheless, manufacturers need to establish a level of trust with their suppliers in order to guarantee—and prove—that the components they supply have been properly constructed to international standards.

It’s easy to see why this is important. The automotive industry has suffered widespread recalls before—and one of the most notable examples was the Takata airbag debacle. More than 63 million of them have had to be recalled because they can explode when deployed, with a risk of serious injury or death. A number of big car brands were affected by this recall—including Honda, Ford, Mazda, and Volkswagen.

Over in the food industry, another sector that’s had to contend with its fair share of extensive recalls, blockchain technology is being used to help identify the source of problematic produce in “mere seconds” instead of weeks.

For the likes of Renault, Toyota, BMW and others, blockchain could be a big driver in spotting production problems before they hit the market—and convincing regulators that they have done so.

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Connor Sephton is a journalist with an interest in cryptocurrencies, personal finance, and financial inclusion—as well as the challenges the crypto industry faces in achieving mainstream adoption. He owns cryptocurrencies.