Blockchain can link supply chain steps from start

Date: Monday, July 2, 2018
Source: American Shipper

 Dan Gardner, vice president of supply chain at Lakeshore Learning Materials and co-founder of Trade Facilitators Inc., is “personally pretty amped up” about the use of blockchain for purchase orders.
   He shared that excitement during the American Shipper webinar “Blockchain-enabled Purchase Orders: The Key to Frictionless Global Supply Chain Execution.”
   “In terms of sheer volume, purchase orders far outnumber any other trade-oriented smart contract,” he said, using a 40-foot container filled with footwear as an example. There may be one bill of lading but 10 or 12 different purchase orders associated with that container. “A PO is a really good candidate for blockchain.”
   The details of a purchase order can change from the time of issuance to actual execution, he said. A blockchain links the chain of events. 
  “Everything that happens,” Gardner said, “is time-stamped and sequenced on the blockchain.” 
   Gardner said Amber Road’s white paper on blockchain refers to what it calls the “Genesis document.”
   “Purchase orders serve as the ‘Genesis document’ for subsequent supply chain activities,” he said.
   And with a blockchain, shippers and customers can go back to the beginning. “When the rubber hits the road … it starts with a purchase order. From a tactical/execution level, the issuance of a purchase order drives most subsequent supply chain activities,” Gardner said.
   Gardner granted there still is much work to be done. “Digitization of the supply chain has to take place ... in order to take advantage of blockchain.”
   Already some 500 companies have banded together in the Blockchain in Transport Alliance to “try and coalesce some type of standard,” said Daniel Pickett, head of data standards for BiTA, chief data scientist at FreightWaves and an American Shipper webinar panelist.
   BiTA, with members from throughout the transportation industry as well as technology companies, currently has a backlog of 2,500 applicants. And an office has been added in Singapore to extend its reach.
   Pickett said BiTA hopes to have its first set of data standards out by December. “This industry could benefit from some data standards. That would be monumentally helpful,” Pickett said.
   Panelist Ty Bordner, senior vice president of marketing and business development at Amber Road, said EDI and ERP systems aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
   “Any blockchain system will take time to develop,” Bordner said.
   “The global supply chain in the digital future will be robust,” he said. “The platform must be broad, it must be deep, it must cover all the details.”
   Moderator Patrick Duffy, research director at American Shipper, said a member of the webinar audience asked about privacy in blockchain.
   Pickett responded, “If you put personally identifiable information on YouTube or Twitter, it’s going to live on the internet forever. It’s the same with blockchain.”
   Duffy said he thought one of the main reasons for blockchain was for security of data. “Who controls visibility? Who can see my data?” he asked.
   Bordner said permissions are going to be application specific. “Underlying blockchain technology gives the ability to make things very secure.”

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