Image Enable Your Supply Chain, Blockchain Enable Your Images


Blockchain has great potential to solve problems and address supply chain problems. Personally, the area that excites me most is track and trace—especially when you consider the possibility of taking these capabilities to the next level.

Let us take a step back and look at the current supply chain processes and their evolution.

block chain in supply chain

Packing slip, paper ASN

Advance Shipment Notices (ASNs) are sent in advance to let the receiver know what products or deliveries are hitting the facility. This allows the receiver to do a few things better including:

  • Preparing labor to receive the product.
  • Plan for order allocation and fulfilment.
  • Effectively plan the supply and demand to run the corporate supply chain optimally and efficiently without huge spikes.
  • Raise awareness in advance of potential exceptions.

In the past, supply chain partners shared packing slips via fax. Information sharing in this manner, although labor intensive, was worth it because it resulted in collective benefit.  It was a step in the right direction. However, the human element and the vagaries of fax technology made it a slow and error prone process.

This first step provided a concrete example of the benefits of sharing information. In many cases, it created a new mindset. Even though many partners were competitors, collaboration provided a win/win.


Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) allows partners in the supply chain community to share information through an established communication infrastructure. Early on, before the internet, organizations needed to invest in T1 lines or modems to establish this connectivity. Today, it is a seamless and easy process over the Internet.

Along with EDI came EDI standards that hoped to streamline and create standards for consistent types of information. For the system to work, all the different partners need to interpret the data in the same way and send and receive the same data in a shared and understood format. One of the most frequently used transactions was the 856 (a shipment status message) that was sent every time a shipment arrived at a different point in the shipping process. It provided visibility across the supply chain about shipment status.

EDI: Case-level ASN

As EDI became the norm, visibility improved great. Case-level ASNs appeared.  When partners worked well together and achieved great performance metrics, thereby creating a trusted relationship. In these instances, they sometimes chose to forgo verifying the content of every box (based on the track record of excellence and accuracy). That offered huge labor savings at the docs. In addition, vendors were their own manufacturing plants and received case levels in advance. This allowed the products to be received in distribution centers without extra handling.


Now, while all these processes are being executed impeccably, where does blockchain come in? All the hype around the technology tells you that it must solve a problem. One of the fundamental concepts of blockchain is that information is shared within a group of pre-authorized trusted parties and this information is stored in computers all over the world (in the cloud). This strategy allows third parties (called validators or rating agencies) to be added as needed. Information is monitored and available to all involved in the transaction. If, for example, a group of components were found to be defective or counterfeit, that information would be available to everyone involved in the transaction.

The second use case where this will be very helpful is track and trace. Let’s take an example from the food industry.  A food manufacturer makes potato salad and uses tomatoes that came from Chile or Guatemala. That farmer can be added as a partner and can send transactions so that the origins of the tomatoes can be tracked and traced back to the originating farm. That’s equally true of any type of component or ingredient. Any issues that rise can be handled proactively even if the problem occurs mid-shipment. (Consider high-heat conditions, for example.) The technology allows the problem to be pinpointed to exactly where it occurred.

Images in the supply chain, images in blockchain

Now, let’s consider how this technology can be extended for further benefit. We all know images provide extra value, facilitate easier and quicker communication, and allow for easy illustration. In supply chain, problems are very quickly and easily understood when explained with pictures. Images also are an effective tool in resolving insurance claim.

Adding images to supply chain entities help in a big way because they become available with any supply chain transaction. Consider the 856 status reports: In addition to having the seal number from the container, you could add a picture of the seal for added credibility. It also allows 3PL operators to demonstrate and prove that they did their job right.

Adding those images to the blockchain makes them available for the entire partner community, including the third-party validators and the rating agencies. Visibility across the entire chain is a gold standard in the supply chain.

Of course, we can’t really talk about blockchain without at least mentioning cryptocurrency. Today, it doesn’t really have a place in the equation. To be truly useful, we must get to the point that it is regulated and accredited by majority industry players. Standards would allow all parties accountable. Unfortunately, we simply aren’t there yet.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Have you implemented blockchain in your supply chain? What benefits and challenges have you seen?

Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiator designs, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. SG LoadProof is a patent pending Centralized Enterprise Photo/Video Document System on Cloud for Supply Chain. SG LP is built on the fact that photos & videos are vital docs as important as POs/SOs/Legal Contracts/Fulfillment Orders that reside in ERP/WMS/TMS systems, that serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal proof of crucial, critical, vital operations executed in Supply Chain within/across orgs when fulfilling customer orders as well as meeting contractual obligations between orgs as merchandise is transferred between different parties that partake in Supply Chain functions & operations. And these photos/videos data should not be stored in someone’s Smartphone or Email Inbox or in their personal/work Computer, but should be stored in a Centralized Enterprise system, where such data can be pushed into super-fast, stored securely, accessible to all stake holders (CFO/Sales Reps/Customer Support/AR/AP) in an org, as well as facilitates super-fast retrieval/sharing. LP is an Enterprise System of record for Photo/Video docs & is as important as an ERP which is an enterprise system of record for POs, SOs, Legal Contracts between parties etc. that have huge legal ramifications, also as important as a WMS (Warehouse Management System) that hold indispensable shipment & fulfillment data on orders. Like how Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc. have evolved into social media platforms/systems that enable individuals to showcase their beauty/pretty clothes/lovely cosmetics/hep coolness etc., LoadProof is an Enterprise system that holds similar photos/videos, but for a different reason, not for show off, but to serve as compelling, conclusive, unequivocal & indisputable system of record and proof that can be presented even in the court of law, when there is a dispute between parties while they execute many facets of the Supply Chain functions & operations. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 25 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit the company at Also follow him at

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