University, NIST Researchers Develop Supply Chain Model Using NIST CPS Framework
After supply chain disruptions in the COVID-19 pandemic, NIST and university researchers teamed up with private sector experts to explore methods for making supply chains more resilient to radical changes in demand. Their efforts resulted in a new supply chain model, which is based on NIST’s Framework for Cyber-Physical Systems: Volume 1, overview. This development was reported in Formalizing and Reasoning about Supply Chain Contracts between Agents, published in Practical Aspects of Declarative Languages.
This team took the view that a supply chain is a “cyber-physical system” (CPS) that uses the Internet to connect physical systems and computational components to enable coordinated operations for an intended purpose. This perspective allowed researchers to use NIST’s CPS Framework to develop a common terminology for supply chain components and stakeholders, which used different language to describe their products and needs. The CPS Framework served as a foundation for developing a model to assess supply chain resilience.
By considering a supply chain as a collection of interdependent contracts, each specifying the requirements of parties to the contract, and considering contracts as mappings between buyer and seller requirements, a supply chain can be formalized mathematically and encoded for analysis by computer. That analysis can identify potential vulnerabilities during surges in demand and provide alternatives to the breaches that can result. These researchers saw these contractual requirements as corresponding to stakeholder “concerns,” per the NIST CPS Framework, and further corresponding to the ten CPS “aspects” – high-level concerns related to “functional,” “trustworthiness,” and more.
For example, a hypothetical company XYZ Homes contracts with Lumber Yard A to:
- Produce 144,000 board feet of lumber – a functionality concern/requirement
- Provide above Number 2 Common grade lumber – reliability, trustworthiness concerns/requirements
- Deliver 14-16 tractor trailers worth of lumber in one month – a business time concern/requirement
Thus, this team showed that contract requirements could be recast as expressions in a programming language for modeling the dynamics of a supply chain and assessing contract feasibility, satisfaction, and problem mitigation. They view this approach as a step towards reasoning about supply chain resilience. The team plans to investigate the relationship between this approach and smart contracts, which automatically execute actions according to an agreement.