Research Projects

Trackchain - Traceable Event Recording for Supply Chains

Supply chains in modern production processes today consist of complete value chains that contain multitude of suppliers, manufacturers, traders, customs authorities, logistics and financial service providers. Tracking flows of goods across the entire supply chain is currently virtually impossible, not to mention cross-company recording of supply chain events.

Trackchain is a blockchain-based infrastructure for storing events and controlling the release of event data to authorized users. This means that every event stored in Trackchain is stored traceably and indisputably. In this way, any sequences of events can be recorded in a traceable and manipulation-protected manner - even independently of supply chains. The possible application scenarios range from audit logs, which are created during the administration of a technical system, to the implementation of "clearing houses", which record business transactions such as billable transactions, to the tracking of events in supply chains.

The joint project with the Fraunhofer Institutes AISEC, FIT and IIS combines two key technologies for the first time: a track & trace system based on modern sensor technology and the tamper-proof functionalities of blockchain technology. The trackchain thus enables real-time product tracking with simultaneous seamless, trustworthy product traceability along the entire supply chain.

© Fraunhofer IML

Blockchain-based data exchange in Supply Chain Management

© Fraunhofer IML
© Fraunhofer IML

Starting in September 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) and PIEL will jointly develop a blockchain-based solution for cross-company electronic data exchange that promises enormous savings potential through the reduction of interface costs and the seamless, transparent automation of order processing.

Dortmund, September 2018

The cross-company electronic data exchange as well as the communication between different systems and IoT devices currently pose a major challenge, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Many processes are still processed and exchanged analogically and paper-based, require manual input or corrections and tie up operational resources in this way.

When SMEs want to securely exchange data with each other, they face a major challenge. The existing infrastructure is often very heterogeneous, many types of interfaces exist in parallel and there are hardly any cross-industry solutions. Blockchain technology can be a way out of this problem. It is cost-effective, individually adaptable to the needs of SMEs and yet secure. The technical wholesaler PIEL and Fraunhofer IML are working together on a pilot project to develop the basics for this important application area of blockchain technology using the example of PIEL's customer Warsteiner.


PIEL sees the blockchain technology as an opportunity to advance digitization in its own company and thus also to enable the completely digitized reordering of spare parts and consumables. The automated transactions used for this purpose accelerate the process. Based on the blockchain technology, an intelligent supply concept for the automatic replenishment control of spare parts is to be developed in the future, reducing the administrative work of maintenance and fully automating transactions. The aim is to develop a functional pilot that can be tested in the real company environment and then implemented.


Within the framework of the twelve-month cooperation project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), solutions for a cost-efficient, secure and trust-promoting harmonization of system interfaces are developed and tested under realistic conditions. In this way, the company will be able to intensify and further expand digital networking with its customers.

Smart objects and smart finance approaches (SOFiA)

© Fraunhofer IML


Kickoff for the research project “Planning and control of value networks by integration of smart objects and smart finance approaches (SOFiA)”

Dortmund, February 01st 2016.


Within a given value network, delays occur during the planning process of a sea freight shipment. The sea freight container will not reach the planned vessel in time. Replanning, rebooking and the corresponding payments have to take place on short notice. This scenario describes the classic and time-consuming daily life in the logistics and supply chain management. Via innovative smart objects and smart finance technologies, the container itself becomes the dispatcher. It recognizes delays, analyses action alternatives and chooses the best transportation route. Subsequently, it assigns a carrier (logistics service provider)   and handles the payment via mobile Business-to-Business (B2B) payment technologies in real-time. The logistical objects are equipped with all the logistical and financial information to allow for a completely autonomous decentralized decision and transaction. In addition to this transport case of application, the SOFiA-project also focuses on the fleet control of harvesting machines for the transport and storage of agricultural commodities.

Therefore, new industry 4.0-based management approaches regarding the self-control and self-organization of logistics, production and the appropriate tasks of payment transactions and supply chain finance are addressed by the SOFiA research project. It is part of the subsidy program “Service innovation by means of digitalisation” by the German federal department for education and research. The project’s objective is the improvement of the process handling within complex manufacturing and logistics networks through integration of smart objects and digital B2B smart finance approaches.

The project was initiated in November of 2015 and has a total duration of three years with the project consortium consisting of the agricultural machinery manufacturer CLAAS E-Systems KgaA mbH & Co KG, the logistics service provider Ekol Logistik GmbH, the financial IT solutions provider Wincor Nixdorf International GmbH and the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML).

The consortium partners’ subgoals, aligned with the project objective, are:

  • Development of management procedures for industry 4.0 based on decision-making methods for intelligent logistics objects for the autonomous logistical and financial control within complex value networks (Fraunhofer IML)
  • Intelligent machine fleet control by means of autonomous logistics objects from a manufacturer’s point of view (CLAAS)
  • Intelligent logistics control by means of autonomous logistics objects from a transport service provider’s point of view (Ekol)
  • Innovative, decentralized B2B payment methods for autonomously operating logistics units within value networks (Wincor Nixdorf)

On behalf of the consortium leader Fraunhofer IML, the project is headed by Prof. Dr. Michael Henke (Institute director) and the department heads Marco Motta (Supply Chain Engineering) and Dr. Axel T. Schulte (Procurement & Finance in Supply Chain Management). Additional information on the research project will be published at