NC State proposes blockchain data network to boost manufacturing
April 12, 2018
at North Carolina State University are proposing the creation of a
public, open-source network that uses blockchains -- the technology
behind cryptocurrencies -- to share verifiable manufacturing data. The
system could be used as a peer-to-peer network that allows companies to
find small- and medium-sized manufacturers that are capable of producing
specific components on a reliable basis.
"Small- and medium-scale manufacturers often lack the resources and
network reach necessary to make all of their potential clients aware of
their manufacturing capabilities," says Binil Starly, corresponding
author of a paper on the work and head of NC State's Data Intensive
Manufacturing Environment Lab.
"A public network like the one we're proposing would help potential
clients find manufacturers with relevant expertise and equipment in an
efficient way," says Starly, who is an associate professor in NC State's
Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering.
"Our approach, called FabRec, would allow companies to automatically
report about their manufacturing activities: which machines are being
used, what materials they are working with, raw material inventory
levels, whether the work is being completed on time, and so on," says
Atin Angrish, a Ph.D. student at NC State and first author of the paper.
"Because these updates are automated, users can be fairly certain that
the information is accurate," Angrish says. "And because it's being done
through the blockchain, which allows event logs to be traced to their
source, there is accountability. So clients can find the right
manufacturers, and manufacturers can find new clients, without relying
solely on claims made in marketing materials."
demonstrate the viability of the concept, the researchers created FabRec
- a publicly-accessible, prototype network that currently accepts input
from a handful of machines.
"Our network shows that the concept is viable, but the next step would
be to establish agreed-upon protocols with participating manufacturers,"
Starly says. "That would allow the creation of code that permits users
to report - and search for - any given set of parameters, such as type
of product, production time, cost, and so on."
"Future steps also include developing software that would allow us to
authenticate sources entering data into the system - as well as
identifying any unreliable sources," Angrish says.
"We are now looking for manufacturers and IT sector partners to help us
build up the network and establish it as a reliable, publicly accessible
resource for supply chain professionals," Starly says.