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IBM has launched a new blockchain project called Trust Your Supplier (TYS), with big name firms Anheuser-Busch InBev, GlaxoSmithKline, Lenovo, Nokia, Schneider Electric and Vodafone already on board.

Announced Monday, TYS joins IBM’s successful stable of track-and-trace supply chain and logistics blockchain consortia, which include Food Trust and TradeLens.

TYS is focused on supplier onboarding, an umbrella term relating to a wide and varied assortment of supplier information like ISO certifications, bank account data, tax certifications, certificates of insurance and other supplier data required for exchanging purchase orders and invoices.

Marie Wieck, general manager at IBM Blockchain, told CoinDesk:

“That onboarding cycle is typically very manual in many companies, even those with very efficient supply chains, just in terms of the vetting and validation of those suppliers. Getting a new supplier on-boarded quickly, particularly when there are new capabilities coming up every day, is critical to how rapidly you introduce new products and services.”

Renee Ure, chief supply chain officer for Lenovo’s data center group, echoed this in a statement, saying, “Through Trust Your Supplier, both buyers and suppliers will see the procurement benefits of blockchain through reductions in cost, complexity and speed.”

Stepping back, enterprise blockchain projects have a reputation for moving forward at a glacial pace, plodding from proof-of-concept to pilot and finally (if you’re lucky) to live production.

However, in this case, IBM has emerged with a fully formed live production blockchain.

Big Blue started work on the project internally with its own procurement division and is using the blockchain to manage 4,000 of its own 18,500 suppliers. IBM said it expects to see a 70–80 percent reduction in the cycle time to onboard new suppliers, with a potential 50 percent reduction in administrative costs within its own business.

TYS is currently limited to the existing participants, with plans for commercial availability in Q3 of this year. Wieck said that, for now, its footprint is confined to North America, but the intention is for a global network.

Network of networks

A key innovation at the heart of TYS is a “digital passport” for supplier identity.

One of IBM’s early blockchain partners, Chainyard, which also builds on Hyperledger Fabric, helped design this aspect of the project. Third-party validators such as Dun & Bradstreet, Ecovadis and RapidRatings provide outside verification or audit capabilities for suppliers via the passport.

Wieck said the digital passport is specifically tailored to TYS, but like most things IBM does, it has been created with pluggable open interfaces in mind.

As such, some facets of TYS could also be applicable to TradeLens, IBM’s shipping cargo blockchain ecosystem launched with Maersk back in 2018. Wieck said there are a number of document-sharing use cases that could be extended with the TYS supplier network.

She said TradeLens, for example, is working on optimizing invoice settlement, factoring and invoice dispute resolution.

Wieck explained:

“We have been talking about the notion of interoperability between blockchain networks – the idea of a network of networks which can expand these economies.”

Marie Wieck General Manager, IBM Blockchain IBM Corporation via CoinDesk archives


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