A discussion of the biggest names in the technology industry is unlikely to lead to a mention of Alsco. After all, we are a uniform rental and linen supply service. We haven’t built the world’s biggest search engine or social media network. We do not manufacture mobile devices or computers. However, technology is integral to what we do.
As technology evolves, our industry is approaching the day when blockchain completely disrupts how we do things. If you are not familiar with blockchain, it is the underlying technology that forms the basis of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Blockchain is not limited to cryptocurrency but can be used to create all sorts of applications that require strict, secure and immutable record-keeping.
Many aspects of the commercial linen industry could benefit from blockchain applications. We will explain these benefits later in the post, but let’s begin with a brief introduction to blockchain.
The Basics of Blockchain
Blockchain is essentially a distributed ledger that keeps a record of digital transactions. The key to blockchain is a functionality rooted in its recognition and maintenance of relationships among different data points. In a cryptocurrency setting, a blockchain’s distributed ledger keeps track of all existing coins throughout their entire life cycle. To do that, the ledger has to account for every single transaction that occurs across the network.
The two biggest advantages of blockchain for cryptocurrency are its immutability and decentralization. Immutability dictates that data cannot be deleted or altered once it has been finalized. The concept of decentralization takes control of data away from a single entity and distributes it across the entire network.
Blockchain and Uniform Rental
You may find it difficult to wrap your brain around just how blockchain works. However, we think we can explain its benefits to our industry by discussing its potential implementation in the uniform rental paradigm. If your company already enjoys uniform rental from Alsco, you have a fairly good idea of how the system works.
We rely on an intricate system of uniform tracking and record-keeping to ensure all our uniforms get where they need to go. We track uniforms as soon as they come out of stock and all through the rental process from laundering to delivery and pickup. We have to know where every uniform is at any given time.
A tracking app built on blockchain technology could improve our tracking efforts drastically. Moreover, the resulting ledger would give us a permanent history of every garment in our inventory. Not only would we know where a uniform is today, we would also be able to see where it has been throughout its entire existence.
Inventory and Accounting
A blockchain system could also be beneficial for our inventory and accounting systems. Alsco offers uniform rental and linen services across the country, and we even have 14 international operations. A blockchain inventory system would give us much better control of inventory, both domestically and abroad.
As for accounting, blockchain could unify all our systems across a single network worldwide. We could use the same security, privacy and immutability that power the world’s biggest cryptocurrency to create a more robust accounting system for our industry.
The uniform rental industry currently feels no urgency to start developing blockchain applications. Maybe one day that will change. If we ever do embrace blockchain, it will be highly disruptive—in a good way.