By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK (Reuters) - International Business Machines Corp <IBM.N> announced on Monday a new blockchain network aimed at improving manual and cumbersome supply chain management.
Supply chain management involves overseeing the flow of goods and services, such as tracking the movement and storage of raw materials, inventory, and finished goods. It has been identified as one area that can benefit from blockchain technology, a shared database maintained by a network of computers connected to the internet.
Technology research firm Gartner Inc said by 2023, blockchain will support the global movement and tracking of $2 trillion of goods and services annually.
The new blockchain network is called Trust Your Supplier and alongside IBM, the other founding participants were Anheuser-Busch InBev, Cisco, GlaxoSmithKline, Lenovo, Nokia, Schneider Electric and Vodafone.
Chainyard, a blockchain specialist firm, is providing the technology and building the network using IBM's blockchain platform. The other companies, meanwhile, are putting their supplier data onto the network and contributing their expertise to expand the network.
Traditional methods of managing suppliers often involve cumbersome manual processes, which make it difficult to verify identities and track documents such as ISO certifications, bank account information, tax certifications, and certificates of insurance, IBM said.
By using a decentralized approach and an immutable audit trail built on blockchain, the company said the new network would eliminate manual time consuming processes and help reduce the risk of fraud and errors.
"The validation and onboarding of new suppliers is a critical pain point for virtually any company that relies on a robust supply chain to conduct business," Marie Wieck, general manager for IBM Blockchain, said in an email to Reuters.
"By moving this process onto the blockchain, we're taking much of that burden and shifting it to the network, where it can be shared in real-time more securely and efficiently."
Wieck said IBM's own procurement organization projects a 70 to 80 percent reduction in the time it takes to get new suppliers onboard and an estimated 50 percent reduction in administrative costs within its own business.
IBM has 18,500 suppliers around the world and said it will begin using the Trust Your Supplier network, initially bringing onboard 4,000 of its own North American suppliers over the next few months. The blockchain has limited availability with existing participants and is scheduled to be commercially launched in the third quarter of 2019.
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; editing by Grant McCool)