IBM enlists AI and blockchain to supply chain management

How will the latest additions of IBM Sterling help supply chains at a time of mass disruption?
1 June 2020

Supply chain management will be enhanced by AI and blockchain. Source: Shutterstock

  • Cognitive supply chain will bring a new era of global trade
  • Artificial intelligence and blockchain are key technologies enhancing supply chain management
  • Predictive models and insights can help minimize disruption levels in supply chains

According to an IBM report, we will see a “cognitive supply chain” emerge as the next wave of development in this highly interconnected and complex global trade.  

Earlier this year, TechHQ interviewed IBM’s Steven Hurley, on the subject of a cognitive supply chain and the transformational journey of its development.

In this type of supply chain, where the likelihood of unexpected challenges or setbacks are commonplace, illuminating the fragility of systems, the rise of cognitive computing presents opportunities to strengthen various aspects of management.

Hurley, a Data Scientists and Solution Architect at IBM Supply Chain Engineering’s Analytics Solutions Group, shared that, as we progress towards the “fifth Industrial Revolution,” artificial intelligence (AI) will be a key component in supply chains and management.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, global supply chains are somewhat stagnant in many sectors. In response to this, IBM has assembled the advances and their learnings from AI and blockchain to develop “more responsive, adaptive, resilient” supply chain management.

IBM’s Lori Brofford shared in a blog post that the introduction of AI and blockchain in supply chains has led to a plethora of enhanced functions within the IBM Sterling suite. 

“You can remove supply chain blind spots and act on predictive insights from AI with the new IBM Sterling Business Transaction Intelligence (BTI) Enterprise and Multi-Enterprise Editions,” Brofford wrote. 

The new IBM Sterling utilizes AI and machine learning to serve supply chain management by giving users the advantage of predictive models which help determine the probability of events.

Organizations can also gain enhanced visibility with alert dashboards providing an overview of discrepancies between transactions throughout the supply chain system. In this sense, companies are able to gain actionable insights and can address issues like missing or late shipments in advance, mitigating risks and losses.  

The blog post further elaborates on the benefits of blockchain in bolstering supply chain management.

Siloed data, a lack of visibility, and fragmented communications across partners inhibit a fluid collaboration. IBM Sterling aims to leverage blockchain to add “visibility, transparency, collaboration, and trust” and build “a smarter, more resilient supply chain.”

Supply chains rely on disparate systems that are each responsible for different stages of trade, from the harvest of raw materials to last-mile delivery at consumer’s doorsteps.

In this case, IBM Sterling offers a uniform, secured, and shared version of the ‘truth’ regarding B2B transactions as their distributed ledger technology (DLT) is based on synchronized data and hinders any form of unauthorized data alteration.

Enhancing trust and transparency is an inherent trait of blockchain, and supply chain management is set to benefit from these built-in features of the technology.

“This keeps everyone (the supplier, buyer, and carrier) on the same page, at the same time to reduce frequency and volume of disputes,” Brofford shared. 

“As the world is quickly changing and we face a new normal, the importance of enabling efficient, real-time supplier collaboration built on a foundation of transparency and trust has never been more critical to improve visibility into Procure to Pay or Order to Cash processes.”