Is it Time to Blockchain Your Supply Chain?


The next Big Thing has arrived – Blockchain – a silver bullet full of promise, albeit early in the hype cycle. Will it help your business and supply chain? Is it time to Blockchain?

Are you already capitalizing on your supply chain opportunities? Many of us are well down the track – alas, supply chains remain full of gaps to fill.

What may be missing is for you to check that your inventory management is not only good for you – but also for your suppliers/customers, your pipeline partners.

Do you keep safety stock of those items that are critical to your business, allowing you to cancel orders with your suppliers of standard products at any time? And are you managing inventory the same way downstream for your customers? Ensuring investment in your supply chain stock (pipeline inventory) optimizes the mix to maximize service at minimum cost. Are your SLAs up to date, your shipment manifests available for authorities, your licenses and insurances correct?

If not, why not?

Ensuring collaboration up and down the supply chain

Well, it’s probably because you don’t collaborate well enough up and down the chain. You may be trying, but still not getting it right. Maybe order fulfillment and shipment date/stage visibility is missing so that you don’t know when to react when things go wrong. Maybe your people don’t care enough and need a push. And maybe your ERP system doesn’t communicate effectively with your suppliers’ or customers’ ERP.

Since the Internet arrived – as far back as the 90s for business, earlier for the military – integration between company systems has become easier on a point-to-point basis. Plus financial (payment/receipt, transfer/balances) and logistics (shipment quantity/date for physical tracking, order number and batch details for product attribute tracking) transactions are typically stored on many independent systems. This multi-company server scatter constrains effective data retrieval and analytics.

Realizing value from Big Data

Next, realizing value from Big Data starts with deep “personal” insights for our own company. Hence power-users sift through and apply machine-learning/artificial intelligence to our ERP and related data. What if we could gather these deep insights into different supply chains, channels, industries, competitors and service providers? Aha!

Blockchain – virtually unhackable Distributed Ledger technology

Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM, recently stated “What the Internet did for communications Blockchain will do for trusted transactions”. How so?

Blockchain is open source – so no single company owns it. It is Distributed Ledger ( technology that tracks ownership and continual update for shared documents and transactions. These document transactions and their associated data and history become blocks that can be linked in “chains”. Access requires tools and users/info-smiths with correct credentials/clearance. The result is a different kind of database – distributed and replicated continuously on many servers simultaneously (not just one) – making Blockchain virtually unhackable and able to give access to HD (huge distributed) Data.

Is this the silver bullet to deliver value to information from the big world not just the small world that we are currently accessing? So, returning to my earlier question: is it time to Blockchain your supply chain? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. It will always be complementary to the enabling ERP – and a surefire way to ensure the agility of your supply chain so that you can keep up with constantly changing customer demands. In fact, it just might be the new business IT super-lubricant.


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