How To Integrate A Blockchain Supply Chain Into Your Enterprise Company

implementing blockchain supply chain

Do you want to know how to integrate a blockchain supply chain into your enterprise company?

The good news is that you have come to the right place to find the right answer.

According to a report published by Allied Market Research, “the global blockchain supply chain market reached $93.16 million in 2017 and is expected to hit $9.85 billion by 2025, registering a CAGR of 80.2% from 2018 to 2025.”

Other than how such innovation can transform your own supply chain, offering such new technology to 3rd party companies will boost your income too. Here are a few amazing case studies of companies that hired DevTeam.Space to build their software products:

  1. Medical Supply – Healthcare Mobile App and Web Supply Chain Application
  2. Rever – Mapping App with Social Media Functions
  3. Property Ownership Software – Housing Ownership Verification Program

Contents

Supply chain management: Challenges galore!
Why use blockchain for the supply chain?
Blockchain use cases in the supply chain space
Examples of enterprises using blockchain to improve supply chain management
How to implement a blockchain supply chain solution in an enterprise?
Planning to transform your enterprise supply chain operations with the help of blockchain?

Supply chain management: Challenges galore!

managing a supply chain

SCM – The above Supply Chain Management concept template shows the main areas or steps of SCM including management, analysis, distribution, procurement, etc. Infographics Supply Chain Management.

What challenges do you as an enterprise business leader face vis-à-vis supply chain management? Well, specific challenges vary from business to business, however, you can categorize them as follows:

  • Costs have increased throughout the supply chain for most businesses as a product of inflation.
  • You’ll probably have multiple channels to sell your products. While that’s great, it also increases the complexity of your supply chain management.
  • The globalized economy now offers multiple choices to consumers, therefore, they demand better service, quality, and speed. Your supply chain operations must keep pace with these global trade demands.
  • Supply chain traceability remains hard to accomplish, given the wider range of sourcing channels available across the world.
  • You now face a much more complex global business environment with heightened risks, and this directly impacts your supply chain management.
  • Political uncertainties, protectionism, etc. cause significant volatility in the supply chain.
  • Just-in-time manufacturing, the need to predict seasonal hikes in demand, and shortened product development cycles have made supply chain management more complex.

Read more about these challenges in “What are the main supply chain challenges?”.

Why use blockchain for the supply chain?

You can see how efficiency, traceability, and transparency require immediate attention within the supply chain space.  Blockchain has distinct characteristics that can make a difference here. The defining characteristics of blockchain are as follows:

  • Blockchain networks are decentralized. Anyone can join a public blockchain network like Bitcoin cryptocurrency, however, private blockchain networks allow only trusted parties to join.
  • “Nodes”, i.e., computers on this network maintain a shared ledger of transactions, therefore, we also call blockchain the “Distributed Ledger Technology” (DLT).
  • Transparency is a key advantage of the distributed ledger of blockchain since it makes information sharing easier.
  • Digital signatures, encryption, cryptographic hash functions, and consensus algorithms make it hard for hackers to attack blockchain networks, therefore, blockchain networks prevent tampering of information in the digital supply chain.
  • Smart contracts run on top of blockchain networks. These transparent and tamper-proof pieces of code execute autonomously, which can improve contract administration.

You can read more about blockchain in our guide “How to build your own blockchain using Node.js”.

Blockchain use cases in the supply chain space

Wondering whether blockchain has practical use cases in the supply chain space beyond its lofty promises? Well, it has!

Various businesses are already investing in numberous blockchain use cases, the following are a few examples:

  • Provenance tracking: Your enterprise probably has plenty of elements in its supply chain, as most other enterprises do. Tracking every record can be a challenge, however, blockchain is helping with this.
  • Reducing costs: Blockchain enables real-time tracking of products and raw materials in the supply chain, which reduces costs.
  • Establishing trust: Your supply chain ecosystem is likely large, and you have many distributors or suppliers to deal with. Subsequently, you find it hard to establish trust when you work with diverse suppliers from across the world. However, blockchain reduces the need to explicitly trust 3rd parties with its mathematical algorithms and distributed ledger.

Read more about the blockchain supply chain management use cases in “How is blockchain disrupting the supply chain industry?”.

Examples of enterprises using blockchain to improve supply chain management

You can find lots of examples of enterprise companies and startups already using blockchain to transform their supply chain management and improve supply chain transparency, e.g.:

  • Walmart is using blockchain to track its food supply chain.
  • Maersk is working with IBM and using blockchain to improve the processing of cross-border, cross-party transactions.
  • BHP is using blockchain to track samples from external providers.

Read more about these examples in “Blockchain technology for supply chains—a must or a maybe?”.

Naturally, the market for blockchain supply chain solutions is growing rapidly. Technology giants like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, AWS, Huawei, and TIBCO dominate the blockchain application market.

 

How to implement a blockchain supply chain solution in an enterprise?

Wondering how do you implement a blockchain supply chain solution into your enterprise? Let’s dive deep and examine the steps, which are as follows:

1. Plan for success

You expect significant gains from the use of blockchain supply chain solutions, therefore, it’s a high-importance project. Plan it well. Start by onboarding a project manager (PM), a software architect, and a team of business analysts (BAs).

Onboard people with experience in implementing blockchain solutions.

What would your planning cover? It should encompass the following:

  • Defining the project requirements;
  • The type of blockchain you would use;
  • A hosting arrangement for your blockchain network;
  • The technology stack;
  • Onboarding a development team;
  • Estimating the project.

Consult our guide “What to plan for when undertaking blockchain software development?” for this planning exercise.

2. Decide on the type of blockchain you would use

Your enterprise supply chain solution will process sensitive data. You can’t afford to expose sensitive information to any unauthorized persons or hackers. While much of the discussions surrounding blockchain focus on public blockchain networks like Bitcoin, you can’t use them for this kind of project.

Public blockchain networks allow anonymous or pseudonymous users, they maintain absolute transparency for all transactions, and finally, they don’t scale well.

You can only allow trusted participants to access your enterprise network, moreover, you need to implement access control.

Obviously, you need scalability too, so an enterprise blockchain is appropriate for your requirements. This I explained in “Public vs private (permissioned) blockchain comparison”.

3. Plan where you will host your blockchain network

Do you want to focus all your efforts on the development lifecycle, or do you want to get bogged down with infrastructure management? Well, I’m guessing that you would like to spend as little time as possible on your infrastructure management.

Therefore, I recommend that you look for a cloud hosting arrangement for your blockchain network. This is good news since cloud computing giants offer their “Blockchain as a Service” (BaaS) platforms for exatly this purpose. The following are a few examples:

  • “Blockchain on AWS”;
  • SAP Cloud Platform “Blockchain as a Service”;
  • “Microsoft Blockchain on Azure”;
  • “IBM Blockchain Platform”.

These platforms provide services to uncover the hidden potential of blockchain by creating smart workflows, enabling efficient integration with new technologies such as IoT and artificial intelligence, and introducing efficient business processes throughout the value chain.

Read our guide “Best blockchain network hosts  – Ethereum – Amazon etc.” to learn more about these platforms.

4. Decide on the technology stack you will use

What kind of apps are you developing? This will drive your choice of the technology stack, e.g.:

  • js works well if you are developing a web app.
  • If you plan to launch mobile apps, then I recommend that you develop native apps. You should use Java for native Android development and Swift for native iOS development.

This brings us to the question of which enterprise blockchain framework you should use. You have several choices, e.g., Hyperledger Fabric, R3 Corda, etc.

I recommend that you use Hyperledger Fabric, which offers the following advantages:

  • Hyperledger Fabric, or Fabric as we commonly call it, is an open-source project from the Hyperledger Consortium.
  • Technology giants like IBM, Intel, SAP, CISCO, etc. participate in this industry alliance, therefore, Fabric benifits from excellent developer support.
  • Fabric has a modular architecture so you can build pluggable components.
  • This enterprise blockchain framework has a “Hardware Security Model” (HSM) for digital keys, which offers higher security for sensitive apps.
  • You can build a permissioned blockchain using this open-source framework.
  • Fabric offers robust performance and scalability.
  • Do you have sensitive supply chain data to process? Fabric has you well-covered here with its “Channel” technology for sensitive data, which uses data partitioning to ensure data security.
  • Fabric offers robust querying capabilities.

Our guide “Pros and cons of Hyperledger Fabric for blockchain networks” explains the advantages of this industry-agnostic framework in greater detail.

5. Estimate your project

You ought to estimate the cost of your blockchain supply chain solution implementation project, therefore, I will now walk you through the various cost elements. These are as follows:

  • Software infrastructure costs;
  • Tooling costs for any licensed tool that you use;
  • Development manpower costs;
  • Other administrative costs.

Read our guide “How much does it cost to build a blockchain project?” to learn how you can estimate this project.

6. Form your development team

It’s time to form your development team. Which roles do you need to onboard? I recommend the following:

  • UI designers for designing interactive and user-friendly application user interfaces.

For mobile apps, the design should be according to the set guidelines of the App store, i.e. Material Design Guidelines for Android apps and Human Interface Guidelines for iOS apps;

  • js developers if you plan to build a web app.

Your web developers should be experts in using web app development javascript frameworks like AngularVue.js, etc. to build secure and robust web apps efficiently;

  • Java developers with native Android development experience, if you plan to launch an Android app.

Nowadays, the Kotlin programming language is also gaining popularity among Android developers due to its safer code structure and seamless integration with Android IDE;

  • Swift programmers, if you plan to develop a native iOS app. 

Swift is recommended by Apple for iOS apps. Your iOS developers can make use of its extensive developer community that is continuously improving Swift library support;

  • Hybrid app developers to build a code base that can run in native containers to allow it to run on Apple or Android devices.

Hybrid app developers can help you target a larger audience by developing apps through cross-platform frameworks like FlutterReact Native, etc.;

  • Hyperledger Fabric developers that know how to code “chaincodes”, i.e., smart contracts in Fabric parlance;
  • Testers to perform thorough quality assurance of your blockchain supply chain solution.

Your QA professionals should be experts in using tools for testing web and mobile applications. For example, Selenium for web applications, Espresso for Android apps, and XCTest for iOS apps;

  • DevOps engineers proficient in version control, configuration management, automated code app deployment, etc. They should also be experts app testing using the security and quality-assurance tools, and other cloud computing services provided by your cloud provider.

Check out our guide “How to find a good software developer” if you need help to onboard competent developers.

7. Install the relevant tools and configure your blockchain network

For the purpose of this guide, I assume that you are using the “IBM Blockchain Platform” and the Hyperledger Fabric Node.js SDK to build your blockchain network. Read “Hyperledger Fabric Client (HFC) SDK for Node.js” for instructions on how to set up this SDK.

You can do the following with this SDK:

  • Communicate with the blockchain network using the APIs as part of this SDK.
  • Configure your network using the Fabric Node.js SDK GitHub instructions.
  • Submit transactions to the Fabric chaincodes and query the blockchain ledger.
  • Create “channels” for sensitive data.
  • Create the various kinds of nodes you need.
  • Deploy chaincodes.
  • Monitor block and transaction-level events.

Take the following steps on the “IBM Blockchain Platform”:

8. Write your chaincodes

We are almost finished. Chaincodes encapsulate the business logic of your blockchain supply chain solution, therefore, you need to code them during this stage.

Thankfully, the “IBM Blockchain Platform” offers excellent guides to develop chaincodes, and you can find them in “Writing smart contracts”.

9. Review your chaincodes

Smart contracts have a unique feature. You can’t modify them after you deploy them, therefore, you need to be doubly sure about code quality.

Testing is important, however, it can’t identify all bugs. You ought to review your chaincodes.

Take the following steps:

  • Ensure that you review the right version of the code, and conduct a static code analysis.
  • Check for common bugs like reentrancy, shadowing of variables, overflows, incorrect signature validation, etc.
  • Verify whether you have coded chaincodes in line with your functional requirements.
  • Track all bugs and review comments, subsequently, follow through to ensure a satisfactory closure of all of them.

Read our guide “Undertaking a blockchain code audit and its importance” for more details.

10. Test your chaincodes and deploy them

“IBM Blockchain Platform” offers robust documentation about its Hyperledger Fabric “Continuous Integration” (CI) process. Read “Getting to know the Hyperledger Fabric continuous integration (CI) process”, and learn the following:

  • How to use the Docker containers for deployment;
  • How to use Jenkins for CI;
  • The “build”, testing, and deployment processes.

Now that you have learned how to use this CI process, take the following steps:

  • Test your chaincodes, and deploy them.
  • Add the network API endpoints to your app.
  • Prove the authenticity of the app by enrolling it.
  • Use the client-side certificates you generated during the enrolment process, and register the app.

 

Planning to transform your enterprise supply chain operations with the help of blockchain?

Blockchain is a niche technology, therefore, most projects involving blockchain implementation tend to be complex. You are planning to implement blockchain to transform your supply chain operations, therefore, you have a high-impartance project to complete.

At this point, you are likely looking for high-quality technical resources to help you build an efficient blockchain supply chain solution. We advise you to partner with a software development company.

Hybrid software development companies experienced in developing blockchain supply chain solutions will save you from the many pitfalls that come with hiring and managing remote freelance developers, as well as the ones that come with bad development work.

As software developers go through a strict vetting process before they become part of a development team in any software company, you can be sure that top-quality software engineering talent is working on your blockchain supply chain application. Added to this, the top hydrid development companies actually guarentee the work of their developers so if you are not happy you don’t pay!

For a complex project like a blockchain supply chain, this guarentee is of the utmost importance and could really save your project from disaster, so we advise you to strongly consider this option. 

Read our guide “How to find the best software development company?” for more information on how to find such a trustworthy development partner.

Still unsure about where to find a great and experienced blockchain development partner? Reach out to the us at DevTeam.Space by taking a moment to tell us a few things about your project requirements by filling out this quick form.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Blockchain technology solution is best for a supply chain? 

The most obvious example would be Ethereum. However, Ethereum’s network can sometimes find itself overloaded due to its popularity. The best solution would be to create your own private blockchain network.

How do you use Blockchain technology in a supply chain? 

Blockchain can be used to store vital data relating to transactions. Smart contracts can also be created on the blockchain for the automation of processes such as financial services, etc.

What is the difference between Blockchain and supply chain? 

Blockchain is a database technology while a supply chain is a series of material transfers made so that consumer goods reach their desired destination.

What are some prominent use cases of blockchain technology in the supply chain?

Blockchain technology in the supply chain is avidly being used for tasks like,
Effective and trusted vaccine distribution, 
Creating supply chain transparency for building mutual trust between business partners and creating sustainability in customers’ purchasing behavior, 
Ensuring increased food safety by building efficient supply chains, etc.

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