News by Forbes: Benjamin Pirus
Global shipping and collaboration have become the norm over the past few decades, bringing the need for added verification of the parties involved. Telecom giant Vodafone is part of a group of mainstream players working in collaboration with IBM, utilizing blockchain to bring clarity and efficiency to the scene.
Harnessing blockchain, IBM has initiated a way to simplify and improve the processes around supplier compliance. The project is called Trust Your Supplier (TYS), and involves several big players, Vodafone Procurement Company (VPC) CEO and director of supply chain management Ninian Wilson said to me in an interview. “There’s a number of founder members who are collaborating on the Trust Your Supplier blockchain capability and we are one of those companies,” he added. Other founding members include the likes of Cisco, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Nokia, GlaxoSmithKline, Schneider Electric and Lenovo, as stated in a press release from IBM.
A large company looking to collaborate with a supplier first needs to make sure that supplier passes a series of background checks and verifications of sorts, Wilson explained. These “compliance checks” look into aspects such as the supplier’s legitimacy, its track record, risks, etc. “Most big companies do this themselves,” he said. In turn, suppliers then “end up providing similar, or the same information to many many many corporate organizations,” he added.
Given this current industry status quo, IMB came up with a “concept” to improve such operations and contacted Vodafone earlier in 2019 about the solution, Wilson explained. IBM’s plan included harnessing blockchain, as well as working with multiple big players, “reducing the barrier to entry for smaller companies,” while satisfying the compliance necessities of those big players, he said.
Wilson said he expects the endeavor’s minimum viable product (MVP) to be “up and running” in 2019. “We are actually helping steer that blockchain company to deliver something, not just for Vodafone or IBM, but a wider set of companies,” Wilson said. Essentially, instead of needing to provide necessary “qualification information” multiple times to multiple entities, that supplier can simply “submit” that information one time, to all those larger companies involved, he explained. “The product isn’t there yet, but we have formed this sort of consortium, if you wish to call it that, to sort of get things moving.”
In addition to simplifying processes for businesses, this new system may provide added trust for end consumers as well. “Our end customers for Vodafone expect us to make sure, when we are buying goods and services from suppliers, that we do it in an ethical way to a high level of standards and compliance,” Wilson said. “This helps us assure our supply chain and our buying activity so we buy goods, products and services from companies who have been through appropriate compliance checks, so then our end customers can be assured that we’re doing the right things with the right suppliers,” he added.
Vodafone is also pursuing several other “blockchain initiatives internally,” although Wilson was not able to divulge further details on those at the time of the interview.