U.S. Air Force Grad School Issues “Blockchain for Supply Chain” Primer

Blockchain concept in 3D rendering

The U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) recently partnered with the University of South Dakota Beacom School of Business and private supply chain security firm SecureMarking to develop a free, interactive blockchain tool designed to help players in the supply chain realm better understand the technology’s various applications. Instructional videos are offered as well, serving as a complement to the web-based tool.

Ohio-based AFIT, home to the School of Systems & Logistics, provides defense-focused graduate and professional continuing education and research to advance U.S. space, air, and cyber forces. 

The tool may be used as a standalone module for classroom instruction, or the tool and videos may be used together in classroom instruction and training exercises.

Key Features of New AFIT Blockchain Tool

Blockchain technology can be used to record virtually any type of activity, financial or otherwise. The information stored in a blockchain lives in a shared, constantly updated database. This database does not live in a single location, which means hackers cannot compromise the security of the information. Every transaction that occurs is referred to as a “block” and is recorded automatically. Updates to a blockchain network occur every ten minutes, maintaining accuracy and transparency.

Blockchain can’t be controlled by any single party and does not have a single point of failure. In this way, the risks involved in traditional, centralized data storage are eliminated. This is what makes blockchain “immutable.”

The new AFIT tool centers on a multi-echelon supply chain scenario, around which a blockchain application has been built. This provides an overview of how blockchain information is initiated and controlled. Air Force program managers can issue tokens to upstream suppliers; the tokens are assigned to specific parts or components and transferred from company to company to company in the blockchain as the actual products are carried through the supply chain.

In this setup, some players have the ability to add more information to tokens. When a certain component is used in the assembly of a final product, for example, this activity can be recorded in the blockchain. No matter what tier they’re in, companies are able to view the supply chain end-to-end for any component they have dealt with. The Air Force managers mentioned above are the only ones with full visibility to all parts, from all companies.

In the series of instructional videos, Daniel Stanton, president and co-founder of SecureMarking, illustrates the impact of blockchain on the modern supply chain, walking users through each step of a blockchain simulation.

Blockchain can show the entire life cycle of equipment, at each military branch — from manufacturing to purchase, deployment, decommissioning, and disposal. This approach could revolutionize current supply chain practices, which are often exceedingly complicated due to disconnected databases, multiple approval requirements, and differences between military divisions.

Blockchain for Military Supply Chains

Blockchain could have a major impact on the historically complex military logistics and supply chain system, revolutionizing how involved parties purchase, use, and dispose of assets. The total transparency afforded to authorized users allows all assets to be visibly tracked throughout the supply chain, ultimately bringing about increased visibility to transactions, enhanced trust through transparency of data, and better business partnerships.


Image credit: Sashkin / Shutterstock.com

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