Gartner has just published their findings from looking at the supply chain strength across manufacturers worldwide, and Apple still tops the list. The ranking was based on a survey of 173 peers, 37 Gartner research opinions, a three-year weighted return on assets, the number of inventory turns each year, and three-year weighted revenue growth. This earned Apple a composite score of 9.69, compared to Amazon's 5.4 (which earned them second place), Samsung's 3.67 (13th place) and RIM's 3.00 (19th place). Apparently the inventory turn score means that iPhones, iPads, and other Apple hardware only sit in a warehouse for five days before being shipped off to an avid customer. Samsung's inventory turn was 17.1 according to Gartner, while Apple's was 74.1 - that should give you an idea of how much faster Apple can pump this stuff out. Let's not even get started with RIM's inventory issues.
A big part of being able to do this kind of thing is called just-in-time delivery, which means Apple is only making products as the orders come in. Of course, this means that iPhones, iPads, Macs and other products need to be pumped out very quickly, but it ensures that no inventory goes to waste by gathering dust in a warehouse and depreciating in value over time. I can only imagine how hard it is for Apple and Foxconn to keep making these products fast enough to keep up with demand, nevermind doing so with such efficiency.
It's crazy to see Apple's beating out giants like Wal-mart, Coca-Cola, and McDonald's with logistical stuff like this, but with Tim Cook's history in operations, you can only imagine Apple's strength in this area improving. Apple has an iron grip on its manufacturing processes in China, but humanitarian needs may put a slight damper on the blistering speed of their factory output.
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Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.