Ready or Not, Blockchain Is Coming to Supply Chains

Everyone’s talking about the potential and promise of blockchain and other bleeding edge tech tools for “supply chain digitization”.  Yet, many logistics and transportation pros are asking why, in practical terms, they should explore and embrace blockchain technologies ahead of more pressing and less esoteric logistics IT initiatives.  Supply chain digitization is a killer use case for blockchain and it is coming to supply chain management.  Will your operations be ready?

<> It is common for a shipper to have an ERP from one provider, TMS from another, fleet management tools from a third, yard management, settlement/financial tools, telematics and numerous other tech tools from others
<> In the next five years, your organization will likely embrace emerging supply chain digitization technology to synchronize your TMS data with the wide array of other supply chain tools
<> The promise of blockchain is the ability to operate using one, unified, indisputable set of data

Fifteen years ago, supply chain logistics automation technology like TMS was as mysterious an idea to most organizations as blockchain is today.  Few but the largest enterprise organizations had the wherewithal (let alone the budget) to develop and implement such tech.  Yet, as we know, it wasn’t too long before cloud-based delivery and a more evolved tech-savvy business community led to widespread embrace of TMS and an array of similar automation technologies like YMS, WMS and a host of others.  Interestingly, those organizations ahead of the adoption curve captured significant competitive advantage whereas those holdouts still resisting the deployment of technology risk falling even further behind (or worse).

Members of the UltraShipTMS team attended a Council of Supply Chain Management Professional (CSCMP) roundtable this week in Manhattan.  The topic: “Exploring the Impact of Emerging Technologies on Supply Chain Management”.  Discussion focused on building “tech stacks” using the best array of tech tools – often from multiple unaffiliated providers – to perfectly suit the unique needs of each organization’s supply chain operations.

It is common for a shipper to have an ERP from one provider, TMS from another, fleet management tools from a third, yard management, settlement/financial tools, telematics and numerous other tech tools from other niche providers.  The largest impediment to success for a shipper in building their tech stack from disparate solutions and providers is the challenge of effective systems integration.  In the absence of a globally accepted standard for supply chain data, moving cleansed, uniform data across platforms built by unrelated providers is daunting.  Failing in this regard can cripple an organization.

Ensuring the uncorrupted flow of data through the entire supply chain – materials inbound to production facilities, finished product/sales outbound to customers and ultimately into the hands of consumers – is imperative to success.  Plus, the velocity of commerce and the underlying data continues to increase in the internet age, leaving less time in which to accurately manage burgeoning volumes of business data.

Blockchain will be the technology that delivers and ensures the “supply chain digitization” needed by organizations to effectively build tech stacks perfectly tailored to their networks, needs and requirements. Blockchain technology was first created to ensure the validity/security of ledgers keeping track of values of accounts holding the world’s first digital currency – Bitcoin.  Although the future of this cryptocurrency is dubious, blockchain tech has broken out of that narrow use case as its potential value is recognized in so many other areas.

Blockchain’s distributed network is extremely well-suited to ensuring the integrity of data as it is accessed from any global location and moved across independent yet inter-dependent systems like those used to manage different portions of the end-to-end supply chain.  The promise of blockchain is the ability to operate using one, unified, indisputable set of data.  As the data is pushed through the different applications used to manage the supply chain it retains integrity and is not susceptible to corruption either intentional or accidental.

You heard it here first: In the next five years, your organization will likely consider embracing emerging blockchain technology to digitize your supply chain and connect your TMS with the array of other supply chain tools you’re using.  You’ll need to in order to remain competitive.  So you’ll want to be partnered with a forward leaning provider with a track record of innovation and market disruption like UltraShipTMS to reap the benefits of early adoption!