Blockchain & AI for SCM - more than just a bunch of buzzwords?
When explaining what Myneral.me is, and mentioning 'AI' and 'Blockchain', some people switch off as the terms are thrown around haphazardly in Silicon Valley. Continue reading to find out why these technologies lend themselves perfectly to Supply Chain Management.
When pitching at TechCrunch Pitchers & Pitches, one of the comments we received was that we should be wary of buzzwords like 'Blockchain' and 'AI'. We were told that many VCs have become numb to these terms as they are overused, and mentioning them can even cause potential funders to switch off and lose interest.
In order to understand why these buzzwords are relevant to 'Myneral.me', and how they can help in building a smarter supply chain, one should first understand the current state of the SCM market.
In a report published by McKinsey, it is stated that:
"The average supply chain has a digitization level of 43 percent, the lowest of five business areas that were examined. A mere 2 percent of the surveyed executives said the supply chain is the focus of their digital strategies."
This is an odd statistic when looking at the direct benefit that can be derived from updating SCM tech, as the same report continues to state how:
"...companies that aggressively digitize their supply chains can expect to boost annual growth of earnings before interest and taxes by 3.2 percent—the largest increase from digitizing any business area"
With these apparent gains being so easy to reach, what are the current barriers to entry?
- Current SMB tools are expensive
- Developing and implementing a new supply chain management tool is a lengthy and complicated process
- There is no easy way to link supply chains together to create an inclusive network
- In-house IT is required to support IT systems
Myneral vs The Rest
So, how does Myneral address this problem? Below are just some of the advantages:
- Hardware based ecosystem - purchase as many MynOne nodes as are required, with no monthly license fees or architecture costs
- Easily expand - simply purchase more devices and expand your supply chain yourself, without having to contract this out
- Modular - Myneral.me connects to existing software and tools, to ensure the migration process is as painless as possible
- Hosted service - Myneral takes care of all of the maintenance and operation of all software services, and with SLA contracts being available maximum business continuity can be assured.
- Interconnected - Adding a third party supplier to your supply chain is as easy as providing them with a MynOne
When building Myneral - modularity and adaptability, as well as scalability were key design guidelines when architecting the technical solution. Because of this, we have opted to build the platform 'API-first'.
API-first development places an emphasis on the backend service that provides the core functionality of the software, building it in such a way that multiple endpoints (such as our Admin Panel, MynOne Devices, MynScreens etc.) can all connect to a single endpoint.
This helps us as developers to quickly spin up applications, integrations and scale the service between our global datacenters, public cloud and on-prem infrastructure. It prevents having to rewrite part of the application for new platforms, as all core functionality is processed and packaged off-device on the server, and simply consumed by the client application.
The service is also inherently more secure as we can abstract information at the server level, ensuring only authenticated users can see the specific information they are authorised to. It also helps when monitoring for any intrusions, as all secure requests are being channeled via a single channel.
Furthermore, this approach helps us in meeting SLA times as we can continuously and automatically monitor 0ur service health and latency to ensure maximum availability.
So, why the Blockchain then?
The diagram above shows a sample transaction on the blockchain. As mutations on the blockchain are published on the 'ledger' and verified by other nodes, information becomes traceable and verifiable. This means that data can be certified to have been recorded at a certain point in time. Transactions are also relationally linked, and can be traced back to the origin easily.
Smart contracts can also be used to initiate (fiat) transactions after certain conditions are met, allowing Myneral to function as an escrow provider.
A recent Boston Consulting Group (BCG) analysis compared an IoT plus blockchain solution to an IoT solution without blockchain could
“achieve net savings equal to 0.6% of revenues, on logistics and storage alone.”
Largely, these benefits are driven by real-time trace-ability combined with smart contracts, allowing for improved inventory holding, brokerage fees, fraud prevention and more.
Making sense of all the data
When introducing a system like 'Myneral.me', significant benefits can be drawn from the increased level of data that is being collected. With this new granularity of information, AI models become essential to process and present the data in such a way that actionable insights can be inferred from it.
With 'Myneral.me' being a hardware-focussed ecosystem of tools, the introduction of sensor data onto the blockchain becomes trivial. Information such as temperature, location and weight can be stored immutably onto the blockchain, to be accessed by the MynAI model. This model is further augmented by real-world data, such as route congestion and weather data.
Being able to verify the steps taken by goods in the supply chain also allows our customers to leverage advanced features such as MynMark© - an end user facing portal allowing consumers to see the journey undertaken by goods they purchase.
So why the apprehension?
Although there are many benefits that can be drawn from using the blockchain, it is certainly not the cure-all answer that some tech-startups make it out to believe. Certain industries are better suited to using other technologies as the benefits of using blockchain are marginal, and the term is being used as bait for investors.
This should however not undermine those industries wherein traceability and real-time insights are of value, such as the supply chain sector.
By building an ecosystem of tools that can easily interconnect, Myneral Labs hopes to be a key driver of Industry 4.0 Adoption.