FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Frequently asked questions

How are companies connected in Enspan?


The first phase of the Enspan solution allows companies to create a track and trace solution by integrating (connecting) their shipping and receiving events. This creates a 'digital thread' or 'digital twin' of the product's history as it moves through the supply chain. Basically, data is sent from the shipping system to the Enspan API endpoint (create shipment) which is then broadcast and stored on the Enspan platform. The customer can see that data on the web-based platform browser or 'fetch' the data from the platform using the Enspan API endpoint (get shipment). A simple way of imagining the process is as follows:

  1. Supplier ships product to their customer using their ERP or shipping solution
  2. When the shipping event occurs, the supplier's ERP sends a data payload (containing the shipping header, line item details and any documentation or images) to the Enspan API
  3. Enspan encrypts the data and records the shipment on the platform
  4. Enspan automatically shares the key to the shipment with the intended recipient (customer)
  5. The customer can now see the encrypted shipment data on the Enspan browser or via the Enspan API
  6. The customer can fetch that data from the Enspan API and use it to pre-populate their ERP system so as to avoid their warehouse clerk having to retype in the delivery note by hand
  7. This significantly speeds up the customer's receiving process and reduces errors that may keep the supplier's product from being accepted into inventory




How is this different from connecting directly to my business partners via EDI?


With the old way of doing things, a company would have to create a direct EDI (Electronic Data Exchange) connection with a customer or supplier. In fact, EDI pre-dates the internet and was first used in the airline industry.
It takes time and money to build each interface and each EDI connection needs to be maintained and monitored over time if things change.

Each data package you receive or send needs to be 'translated' to the destination's data format - adding a further layer of complexity to direct connections.

The approach becomes unmanageable and unscalable over time as each trading partner needs to be directly and uniquely connected. If you have 500 trading partners, then you need 500 direct point-to-point EDI interfaces. At thousands of dollars each, it is easy to see why this solution has not become prevalent today.

With Enspan, you use a single API endpoint (single source of data) to connect with multiple business partners. Each time you add a business partner, they can 'fetch' the transaction you wish to share directly from our end point. This means that you can scale up your customers and suppliers without incurring the cost and integration pain mentioned above.

Example: One SME supplier has two large customers (both requiring a digital data feed for shipments). Instead of building two interfaces, the SME connects once to Enspan and offers the API endpoint to both customers. If the customer insists on a specific data format, we can handle that on the SME's behalf as a service.




How is data displayed to end users?


End users can make use of the Enspan browser to view their data and shared data of their trading partners. This is a simple web-based application that allows 'browsing' of all the data on the Enspan platform.
Sophisticated users with IT developers can directly consume the Enspan API endpoints to access the data and display it using their own front-end solution. i.e., they can create a custom front end application for their internal or external customers.

Developers may want to build new front end applications that combine Enspan data with that of their other internal or external systems in order to solve a completely different problem, create new functionality or entirely reimagine an existing business process. Process automation can be achieved using these methods.




Is Enspan an ERP?


No. Enspan is not meant to replace your ERP system. Your ERP system is your system of record and also contains the business rules that you employ within your business for process compliance and other reasons.
Think of Enspan as a place where multiple ERP systems' data can be seen together in an integrated fashion.
Example: If you want to visually trace the origins of materials in end products as they move through the supply chain, you can use Enspan to collect the shipping and receiving information from multiple parties and Enspan combines it into an easy to visualize 'digital thread' of the product and its materials. To achieve this, Enspan takes data from many ERP systems and uses it to create historical events that are recorded against the part or product.




Will my processes change?


Use of Enspan to record and share transactional events is not intended to change or disrupt nor add steps to an existing process. However, there are two cases where processes can change:

  1. You want to add automation to an existing process. You can use Enspan or build your own app that consumes Enspan data to automate or change the process. Obviously there has to be a good reason to do this, or
  2. You have some suppliers or customers that are very low volume and wish to use Enspan in a manual way - we provide the facility to create and receive shipments, author documents etc. using the Enspan browser instead of their back end ERP solution. However, we expect that this will be the minority of cases




Can I merge Enspan data with data from my other business applications?


Yes. Because Enspan is built around an 'Open API' concept, it follows that your developers can fetch Enspan data (that you are authorized for) and can combine this data with other data sources to build an entirely new application. There are infinite opportunities to create new applications, solve problems and automate business process. We even envisage that entirely new business models will emerge from this capability.




Where is my data stored?


Data from all transactions is currently stored in Amazon cloud servers (AWS) on the East Coast of the United States. If you are a large customer with specific data needs, we can discuss other options where your data can be stored. Please contact us to explore options.




If my data is in the cloud, can others see it?


No. Your data is encrypted and only you can see it. We believe in 100% author rights. Meaning, authors of data have full rights to that data. Not even we can see it. Our data policy is specifically designed to give you a safe place to store your data. When a piece of data is authored, it is encrypted using the user's private key. It can only be seen by the users of the same organization. The author or designated colleagues can give other users (outside their organization) access rights upon their discretion. You can always see who has access to your data by checking the 'access list' on each transactional event. Special considerations

  1. Automated Sharing: The only time when data is shared outside of the organization is when it is intended - i.e., when shipping product. In this case, the receiving organization and its users automatically get access rights to the information regarding that particular shipment
  2. When a user changes organization: Users leaving the platform or moving to a new organization on the platform will no longer be able to view data previously shared with them. This is because they must re-sign up with the new organization and their user rights are now governed by their new organization which may or may not have a relationship with your company




How can I trust the platform?


Our code is available for your IT staff to inspect at any time. In the future, our code will be hosted in a visible format so that anyone can see how we implement encryption and validate the security of your data when handled by our back-end processes. Our code has already been inspected and audited by a large (>$1BN) aerospace company and was deemed safe to implement. Our data policy document can be viewed here.




How can I trust the transactions I see from third parties?


Basically there is a front end web-based application for viewing and interacting with your supply chain's data set and there is a back end database where all of the data is stored. Each transactional event in Enspan is encrypted at the time of input (whether by human or from an ERP via our API) using 256 bit encryption techniques (same as banks use) and the resulting encryption hash (output) is stored on a blockchain. To authenticate data (to ensure that no one has tampered with it) we can re-encrypt the data and compare the output hash with that of the historical hash on the blockchain. If the two match, then the data you are seeing is authentic. This ensures that no one has tampered with the data that you are viewing. Think of this as 'notarizing' the data.




How can I share data with my customers and suppliers?


Because all data is encrypted and can only be viewed by the author and members of the author's organization, it follows that customers and suppliers would not be able to view any transactions, data or documents you put on Enspan. However, you can share a document or event with your business partners at the organizational level at any time. Each event or document allows you to add an organization to the event. Once that has been done, then all members of that organizaiton will be able to see the data. EXPORT CONTROL - A SPECIAL CASE In the case of parts that are sensitive (subject to export control regulations) you can set a flag such that only users that have been authorized as having access to export controlled data can view that data and any transactions that the data is connected to.




What levels of data security are there?


There are three main levels of data security:

  1. OPEN - Data is unencrypted and anyone with a login to Enspan can view this data (usually header data, part number, description etc. You may also wish to publish product catalogs, Material Safety Data Sheets etc. at this level
  2. RESTRICTED - Data is encrypted and can only be viewed by those with authority from the author (usually order data, line item, prices etc.)
  3. PRIVATE - This is encrypted data that is only visible to the author and members of his/her organization