Right now, innovations like Industrial Internet of Things and business automation software are making the global electronics supply chain more efficient, cost-effective, and resilient. However, there are emerging platforms that offer a pathway to a higher degree of digital transformation. When harnessed together, cryptographic data management and fifth-generation mobile networking can improve visibility, security, and efficiency.
Blockchain Provides Greater Supply Chain Visibility
Blockchain is the foundational technology for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. In brief, it allows users to create unique, immutable digital records that are automatically updated as they pass through a global decentralized data network. People use blockchain to keep hacker-proof ledgers of every transaction involving their digital currency, which allows for secure worldwide e-commerce.
When applied to an electronics ecosystem, the technology enables greatly improved transparency, trust, and security for all participants.
How does this translate to the electronic components supply chain? Let’s say a part manufacturer creates a new block for an order of capacitors. The record would include the make of the components, their point of origin, all relevant shipping data, and a smart contract. As the parts move through the global supply, the blockchain network would meticulously document each step of the journey. Delays at any point would be logged, and all compliance or contract violations are chronicled.
As a result, manufacturers, logistics firms, and OEMs could track the progress of an order from foundry to receiving dock right from their ERPs. That means no more extraneous paperwork, phone calls, emails, or disagreements about production and delivery timelines. Plus, the ultra-secure nature of blockchain technology prevents unauthorized record alteration and acts as a bulwark against cybercriminals. In short, blockchain takes traceability to a whole new level.
Right now, component markers, shippers, and OEMs’ slow embrace of digital transformation stands in the way of widespread blockchain adoption. However, as time passes, this technology will become commonplace and increase the industry's ecosystem of visibility, reliability, and security.
5G Optimizes the Supply Chain Ecosystem
5G is another technology that can optimize the entire global parts supply chain.
The mobile connectivity standard enables both 10Gbps data transmission rates with millisecond latency. It also permits network slicing, wherein a telecom allocates a portion of their network to specific operations, like IoT systems. When used in tandem with an administrative AI, microsensors, and smart machinery, 5G enables fully autonomous factories.
The technology can also enhance supply chain visibility, asset tracking, and efficiency. When component manufacturers attach ultra-compact Bluetooth low energy (BLE) or RFID tags on outbound orders, the shipment becomes traceable within a 5G network. That means all ecosystem participants will be able to track the on the ground movements of deliveries in real-time.
In addition, 5G network slicing enables OEMs and CMs to precisely follow the location of their materials within their production facilities. Accordingly, on-site asset tracking will become much easier in the future, as will automatic part reordering. Lastly, when used together, 5G and blockchain technologies enable electronics ecosystem participants to send, follow, receive, and pay for active orders automatically.
The elimination of misplaced shipments, paperwork, and time-consuming partner communications will save component makers, logistics companies, OEMs, and end-users tremendous amounts of money.
While wireless providers have launched 5G networks worldwide, it is not yet ubiquitous. Consequently, many regions lack the depth of coverage required for precision outdoor and indoor monitoring. But like previous mobile data network deployments, fifth-generation availability is a matter of "when" and not "if."
Because of their significant operational, security, and cost benefits, blockchain and 5G will inevitably transform the global electronics supply chain. And as history has shown, companies that embrace leading-edge technological tools first will have the market advantage.
The Future is Now
As CEOs and supply chain specialists consider the future with these two technological disruptors, they may also consider platforms that are presently changing the industry in their own unique way. Tools such as Sourcengine's BOM Management Tool is truly changing procurement. Now, a procurement agent can upload a BOM and purchase it all with a simple click of a button. Sourcengine's BOM Tool searches over 2,600 traceable suppliers for the best offers and delivery times.
Sourcengine continues its efforts to digitalize the industry by making such tools available. Its e-commerce marketplace for the electronic components industry changes the game. Traceability; data sheets; and even BOM search and purchasing are all at one's fingertips.
Yes, the future of supply chain stabilization is in blockchain and 5G, but that does not mean that the industry need wait. The digital age of supply chain stabilization is here, right now.