A technology expert urges senior professionals occupying executive supply chain jobs to push for the introduction of decentralised blockchain-enabled communication technology, which he says has the power to improve request-and-promise workflows in a way that cloud technology cannot.

In an article for Supply Chain Brain, Jon Kirkegaard, a specialist in decentralised Sales and Operations Planning software and supply chain execution data management, says that the recent stampede to transfer IT applications to the cloud has done little to improve collaboration in the supply chain. The reality is that today’s supply chain networks are more complicated than the simple linear supply chain of yesteryear. Point-to-point communications may work in the latter, but the former needs a decentralised network protocol instead, mainly because most parties in complex supply chain networks work asynchronously rather than synchronously.

Take a scenario familiar to professionals in supply chain jobs, whether they operate as permanent staff or supply chain interims: a request is made, say, from a brand owner to a contract manufacturer to provide 1000 SKUs for 52 weeks, but it then has to be examined for feasibility and profitability. In other words, there’s a built-in delay that has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with human communication. As Kirkegaard explains: “Blockchain offers a way to support advanced collaboration, through the unique packaging of technologies that have been with us for some time, including encryption, P2P network communication, decentralized databases, and application development. Think of blockchain as a workflow engine for supply chain.”

Blockchain has the architecture to support extended and loosely connected workflows between applications and humans. It can deliver appreciable cost savings and added value by facilitating substantial cycle-time reductions in these loosely-linked request-and-promise workflows, driving significant reductions in the scale of working capital buffers and expanding top-line growth substantially. The financial benefits, Kirkegaard believes, are potentially massive.