by Thomas Wailgum

Study: Apple, Nokia, Dell Tops Among Global Supply Chains

May 29, 20084 mins
Supply Chain Management Software

AMR Research's annual list of the top 25 supply chains puts Apple at the top for meeting iPhone demand. Procter & Gamble, IBM, Wal-Mart, Toyota top list of global manufacturers and retailers. Read who else is on the list.n

AMR Research released its fifth-annual “Supply Chain Top 25” list, and leading the supply chain pack this year is Apple. “Apple is No. 1 in 2008, signifying an epic shift away from the 20th-century production-efficiency mentality to a new era of value based on ideas, design and content,” notes the AMR Research report.


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The iconic iPod and iPhone maker took the top spot due to “an intoxicating mix of brilliant industrial design, transcendent software interfaces and consumable goods that are purely digital,” write AMR’s Tony Friscia, Kevin O’Marah, Debra Hofman and Joe Souza in the report. “The mechanical and financial benefits of this approach include extremely high inventory turns, minimal material or capacity limitations to growth, and excellent margins.”

In addition, Apple’s “outstanding” financials proved impressive in all the categories AMR used to calculate the Top 25 rankings. AMR determines the top supply chains by analyzing a combination of corporate financial measures, inventory data, and peer company and AMR analyst opinion.

Historically, notes the AMR report, Apple had a reputation for poor supply chain performance. But that has all changed.

“With its introduction of the iPhone, Apple could have stumbled meeting demand or failed on quality. It did neither,” states the report. “Behind-the-scenes moves like tying up essential components well in advance and upgrading basic information systems have enabled Apple to handle the demands of its rabid fan base without having to fall back on their forgiveness for mistakes.” The AMR list is interesting in part because supply chain management is tough to get right in the global economy. (See Fraud and Theft Risks in Global Supply Chains Are Everywhere, How ConAgra’s Pot Pie Recall Bakes In Hard Lessons for Supply Chain Management and The Supple Supply Chain for more on supply chain challenges.)

To create its list, AMR used publicly available, 2007 financial data along with analysis and opinion from supply chain experts who are customers and suppliers, along with analysis by AMR researchers. (The AMR report contains a full explanation of the process.)

See “The AMR Research Supply Chain Top 25,” below.

The AMR Research Supply Chain Top 25

These 25 companies demonstrate leadership in applying demand-driven principles to their global supply chains.

The Top 25 AMR Comment
1. Apple “Brilliant mix of design, software interfaces and consumable goods that are purely digital.”
2. Nokia “Leads the way in “supplier collaboration practices, design for supply chain and embedded innovation.”
3. Dell “Outstanding inventory turns” and high marks from peers.
4. Procter & Gamble “demonstrated leadership, and an extension of the boundaries on innovation.”
5. IBM I “Pioneer in supply chain management, with a track record of sharing its learnings.”
6. Wal-Mart Stores “Translates consumer needs into sophisticated segmentation strategies.”
7. Toyota Motor “An icon among manufacturing aficionados.”
8. Cisco Systems Noted for work with sales channel.
9. Samsung Electronics Excels at “fine-tuning its supply-demand balancing decisions.”
10. Anheuser-Busch Demonstrates “solid focus on delivery-to-schedule excellence in manufacturing.”
11. PepsiCo “Sophisticated supply network planning, a focus on innovation, and an increasingly diverse product portfolio.”
12. Tesco “A major focus on streamlining supply chain operations at home, and aggressive international growth strategy.”
13. Coca-Cola “Relentless focus on supply chain operations and translating downstream demand insights into loyal customers.”
14. Best Buy A leader in “home service and workforce management innovations.”
15. Nike Noted for excellent blocking and tackling on its supply chain.
16. SonyEricsson “Excels in customer and channel demand management.”
17. Walt Disney Handles “a growing retail presence and a complex set of supply chain challenges.”
18. Hewlett-Packard Has “streamlined operations on a scale and at a speed that defy belief.”
19. Johnson & Johnson Strong results through big acquisition, high marks from peers.
20. Schlumberger An “almost-obsessive corporate focus on building supply chain talent.”
21. Texas Instruments Recognized for its technology leadership and operational efficiency.
22. Lockheed Martin Manages massive supply chain with emphasis on “next-generation lean thinking and supplier and program management.”
23. Johnson Controls “Track record for supply chain innovation in a notoriously tough industry.”
24. Royal Ahold “Stellar” inventory turns and operational efficiency and productivity.
25. Publix Super Markets “Known for its strong brand innovation and leadership in generic drug discount programs.”