Apple, P&G, Cisco and Wal-Mart Tops Among Global Supply Chains

AMR Research's annual list of the top 25 supply chains names Apple as No. 1 (again). P&G, Cisco and other global manufacturers (Dell) and retailers (Wal-Mart) made the list for supply chain and financial excellence.

It's all Apple, all the time these days: There was the boffo debut of its iPad in 2010; then unseating Microsoft by claiming the world's highest market capitalization; and finally continuing to bask in the pre-launch hype of its next iPhone iteration.

Steve Jobs & Co. can now add another accolade to the trophy case: Being recognized—for the third year in a row—as having the best supply chain on the planet.

The award is from AMR Research's sixth-annual "Supply Chain Top 25" report, and Apple is followed by 24 other global powerhouses. (Here's a look at the top 10.)

AMR Research Top 25 Supply Chain
SOURCE: AMR Research

According to AMR, Apple "dominates because it consistently brings both operational and innovation excellence to bear in some of the most competitive markets in the world. From a supply chain perspective, the company's ability to ramp volumes both in hardware and software while redefining what a mobile telephone is supposed to be has been impressive."

The new buzzword in supply chain management is the concept of "value chains," and Apple is all over it, states the AMR report.

"Apple has broken new ground in the area of transforming its supply chain into a value chain, starting with the consumer experience and designing its network to serve that master first and foremost," the report notes. "This means demonstrating some of the behaviors we look for in Top 25 companies, including embedded innovation, networked supply and demand shaping."

Perhaps the lone blemish on Apple's sparkling supply chain resume this year is an employee-rights' controversy at one of its most important manufacturing partners: Foxconn in China. Foxconn has made news due to an alarming number of suicides among its workforce.

How to Be More Like the Winners

There were, of course, 24 other winners that are each outstanding in their own way. Here are a couple of interesting facts from this year's report:

  • Procter & Gamble, at No. 2, is the only company to have been in the Top 5 for six consecutive years.
  • Five companies made their debut on the Top 25: Research In Motion, Amazon.com, McDonald's, Microsoft and Inditex.
  • "Two themes emerged from our review of this year's winners," states the report: "a re-examination of the benefits of vertical integration and increasing advances in the realm of sustainability."

Also included in the 2010 report is a list of recommendations on how to make your company's supply chain more like the winners':

  • "Apply demand-driven principles to coordinate and integrate the functional areas of supply, demand and product management in order to better sense, shape and respond to changes in market demand."
  • "Take a cue from the leaders when designing your own supply chain strategy. Think outside in, starting with your customers and working back through your trading-partner network to design a profitable response. Remember that one size does not fit all. Define how many supply chain types you have and design a customized response for each."
  • "Balance operational excellence with innovation excellence for superior overall performance."
  • "Focus on acquiring, mentoring, growing and retaining supply chain talent."
  • "Measure your supply chain as your customer experiences it. Use the right supply chain and product metrics to consciously manage performance, and foster a culture that embraces measurement for continuous improvement."
  • Or, to put it much simpler: Just be like Apple.

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Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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