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Drive internal process with intelligent automation to support blockchain transactions

An earlier article, Role of Blockchain in the Digital Transformation of the Global Shipping industry, gave a brief introduction to the application of blockchain and the many benefits that the technology brings to the global logistics and shipping industry. As a follow-up, this article intends to share how technology enablers drive the hyperautomation of internal business operations. The use of AI-driven digital platform supports continuous business improvement by increasing the visibility of internal business processes. At the same time AI technology simplifies the task of re-configuring existing processes. All these improvements help to drive business agility and resiliency.

Gartner has pointed out that hyperautomation is one of the top strategic technology trends that drive creation of new business models for improved business resilience. Gartner predicts that by 2022, 55% of Enterprise Architecture (EA) programs will be supported by artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled software, freeing enterprise architects to focus more on internal management consultancy work.

Hyperautomation also resonate well with the Malaysian government initiatives outlined in the 2021 Malaysia Budget, such as the SME Digitalization Grant, Automation Grant and National Supply Chain Finance Platform. These programs encourage the adoption of automation and digitalisation to drive long-term productivity and accelerate Malaysia’s transformation towards a high-income economy.

The following diagram gives an example of how to leverage on hyperautomation to support blockchain transactions for timely and accurate reporting that draws on immutable data sources.

Hyperautomation with TradeLens Blockchain technology
Hyperautomation with TradeLens Blockchain technology

Shared ledger of TradeLens Blockchain platform and business network provides the following business benefits:

  1. It reduces manual effort and operation cost required to perform reconciliation & resolve disputes.
  2. It accelerates settlement by removing third parties previously needed for transaction verification & validation.
  3. It enables real-time reporting on distributed transactions for compliance purposes.

Increased transparency of TradeLens Blockchain requires timely and error-free participation of parties in the business network. Each party must act within the expected window of opportunity. Such performance expectations of Blockchain business networks require high levels of automation & repeatability in your internal business operations.

It requires the following types of support in your digital operation platform:

  1. Integration modernization with legacy systems to automatically generate letters of credit and quickly resolve exceptions through structured and auditable process flows
  2. Automation of sender/beneficiary onboarding with ability to perform real-time settlements and reduce false rejections. Automation uses business rules to increase straight through processing and to provide timely fraud detection. Business rules are externalized to make them repeatable and they can be frequently and easily updated to meet changing business conditions and policies
  3. Integration of source systems with audit systems to minimize manual errors and automate audit and exception processes by involving both human and systems in the digitized compliance checking process.

Documents to be submitted to the business network or documents pulled from the network are digitized and hashed for storing in enterprise content services to ensure originality, security, and accessibility.

Through deep learning, it eliminates the need to provide a lot of document samples for training during document digitization and intelligent content extraction, hence, enabling fast deployment and quick ROI. Automation Document Processing uses low-code AI-led training to reduce setup and maintenance and does not need 100s to 1000s of zonal-based fingerprints to read highly variable documents. There are some pre-trained models for common document types like invoices, purchase orders, bill of lading, etc. Deep learning is able to transfer learning from documents that have been processed to improve quality and accuracy of document processing for new document types.

Blockchain has highlighted the need for timely, auditable and accurate process performance through low code AI driven hyperautomation to avoid having inconsistent or undocumented processes, unnecessary manual work and rework due to limited, ineffective and siloed automation of workflows and business policies with poor end-to-end process visibility and slow, inefficient exception handling.

Reference materials:

  1. TradeLens Blockchain Platform and Architecture
  2. IBM’s point of view on hyper automation – Cloudpak for Automation
  3. Part 1: Combine business process management and blockchain – By Larissa Auberger, Matthias Kloppmann. Published January 1, 2017
  4. Part 2: Enable business processes to react to blockchain events – By Larissa Auberger, Matthias Kloppmann. Published January 1, 2017
  5. Part 3: Use blockchain to manage legal documents stored in an enterprise content repository – By Allen Chan, Paul Pacholski, Ah Hock Teh, Kim Kiow Tan. Published January 1, 2017
  6. Make your blockchain smart contracts smarter with business rules – By Stephane Mery and Daniel Selman. Published Aug 14, 2017
  7. Listen to events from a distributed blockchain network: Use Java microservices to listen for events from a distributed blockchain network with Open Liberty – By Thomas Jennings. Published July 29, 2020

Role of Blockchain in the Digital Transformation of the Global logistics and shipping industry

The recent announcement that the Royal Malaysian Customs Department (RMCD) has joined the Tradelens initiative has triggered a lot of interest in the application of blockchain in the logistics and supply chain industry in Malaysia. This article intends to shine more light on the many benefits and value that blockchain can bring to the industry, with particular emphasis on the TradeLens technology.

Blockchain is a permissioned network of trusted participants who are using the platform to record transactions in hyperledger fabric to form a smart contract. It’s a single view of all transactions that are submitted and updated by network participants whose identities are made known to each other using encrypted certificates. Data and Transactions recorded, dated and signed in the ledger are tamper proof, non-repudiable and traceable. Data is only shared with those who need to know.

TradeLens is a collaboration between IBM and Maersk to provide a blockchain based and open-API platform to enable the digital transformation of the global container logistics industry. It provides end-to-end visibility of shipment between buyers and sellers. TradeLens participants involve freight forwarders and 3rd party logistics providers who create consignments upon request by owner of goods. The logistics providers will use the Bill of Lading as a contractual agreement with the owner of goods for transportation of cargo from warehouse to ports at the country of origin and similar arrangement when the goods arrive at the destination.

Ports, terminals, custom authorities and some government agencies are also participants of this network. Authorized users of the network are given access to create, edit, update and query data and transactions in the ledger via services in the form of publicly available APIs. New shipping events and transaction updates are published to subscribers who want to receive an alert or notification via the pub/sub event framework. Typical trade documents such as Bills of Lading, custom declarations, certificates, shipping manifests, etc are uploaded or downloaded by authorized users of the platform.

The blockchain enabled Digital Data is considered to be secure and tamper-proof. Shipment status are tracked to provide end to end visibility of cargo shipment journey from warehouse to ports, from ports to ocean liners and from ports of arrival to warehouse.

When custom authorities sign up as participants in this network, they have access to shipment data and events for inspection of goods stored in physical shipment containers during custom clearance. Digitizing goods inspection process can help to improve risk management and increase transparency in detecting forgery and fraud during inspection for custom clearance. Potential use cases of digitizing inspection at customs are automating and streamlining approval of green lane clearance using pre-defined local rules, policies and regulations maintained in a rules repository where its life-cycle is managed and governed, allowing for frequent changes and updates to the rules. Suspicious goods are flagged for exception handling through case management to expedite decision making while the shipment release is put on hold. 

With the digitalization of logistics data, further value can be extracted through hyperautomation. Platforms such as IBM Cloud Pak for Automation can unlock data in documents to start workflow for transaction processing using secure and trusted data. The straight through processing with full visibility into process and status will further increase efficiency of business operations in the shipping industry. The efficiency improvement allows re-deployment of workers from menial work such as paper handling to higher value-added activities.

This article serves as a brief introduction to the application of blockchain and the many benefits that the technology brings to the global logistics and shipping industry. Additional comments and viewpoints are welcome.