The review has identified many applications of smart contracts via the detailed analysis of the related publications

6. Discussion and Framework

However, despite a plethora of research, the application of smart contracts in various industries is different and secreted around to their operational requirements. The actual use of smart contracts is still very limited in practice, especially from the procurement perspective. Nevertheless, the review also found that the widespread research and development of smart contracts in various industries have extended the original functions of smart contracts and made them more comprehensive and efficient to their project needs, such as cross-organizational collaboration and optimization of business processes.

Apart from that, a research framework of smart contracts has been developed for future procurement needs based on this mixed-method review, as shown in Figure 10. On the one hand, most studies have found the benefits of smart contracts, but current research has not gone beyond conceptual proposals and recommendations and lacks in-depth research on smart contracts in terms of procurement. How will smart contracts change the current procurement workflow? How to build an automated financial system through smart contracts? How will smart contracts affect customer relationships? All of these will be significant breakthrough points to achieve sustainable procurement in the future.

Supply chain management in logistics is very suitable for integrating smart contracts and IoT [55, 83]. The integration will become a driving force to digitalize the procurement practices or functions in the project . In addition, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, big data, machine learning, etc., will also provide new opportunities for enhancing traditional procurement approaches’ performance. For example, big data and data mining can help filter out better partners. Artificial intelligence can automatically trigger replenishment requests, and virtual reality can simplify supplier visits and on-site audits. All these processes can be registered and synchronized under the nodes of smart contracts in improving business operations. The integration of smart contracts with other emerging technologies is the future development trend and research focus, for example, in the construction procurement activities, the integration of smart contract and BIM, in logistics management, the integration of smart contracts with IoT and artificial intelligence, etc.

Future procurement systems will also need to achieve complete predictability of suppliers’ information, prices, and costs. In bidding processes, smart contracts can automatically evaluate and recommend the best suppliers based on preset criteria and provide or optimize the best contract prices based on the number of goods and supplier discounts. In this situation, the procurement process can fully achieve smart and efficient supplier selection and contract signing and subsequent execution via the self-service procurement operations within sple, the procurement operations will automatically sense material requirements and trigger replenishment requisitions and automatically execute contract terms based on rules and trigger payment. In this regard, it will shorten the approval cycle and eliminate manual errors, and subsequently, it will greatly improve the overall efficiency of business operations. The entire procurement life cycle can be digitalized and improved via smart contracts: the fairness of bidding, the speed of negotiation, the transparency of the supply chain, the convenience of contract management, and the automation of confirmation and payment. Moreover, purchasing based on smart contracts will transform from a purely cost-driven transaction to a value-oriented process among project stakeholders. In sum, this framework provides insightful theoretical ideas and practical references of integrated procurement approach based on smart contracts, which is a sustainable procurement system for future procurement needs in business operations across the industries.

7. Conclusion

This research has conducted a mixed-method review on the application of smart contracts in various industries to understand their current status, benefits, and potential advantages from the procurement perspective. The research results reveal that the current development of smart contracts is still in its infancy. However, smart contracts have the potential to be widely used across industries, especially in leveraging each industry’s strengths or developments in addressing inefficient processes in the current conventional procurement systems. The paper has made contributions to the existing literature of smart contracts in three aspects. First, this article categorizes the application of smart contracts in various industries, summarizes the benefits and functions, and analyzes the current development status. That lays a beneficial foundation for future studies in this field. Secondly, this study uses a systematic and bibliometric review method. The combination of qualitative and quantitative methods provides better methodological reliability in reviewing and analyzing the application of smart contracts in various industries. Third, based on the analyzed data’s inductive approach, we establish a research framework for future procurement needs. The proposed integrated approach of the sustainable procurement system provides new insights and opportunities for researchers and procurement practitioners to rethink and reexamine the current procurement system and process.