It's starting to look like Apple (IW 500/4) plans to take up permanent residence at the summit of the IW 50 Best Manufacturing Companies list.
For the third year running, the tech giant has topped the IW 50, IndustryWeek's annual ranking of America's biggest manufacturers based on six key financial-performance metrics.
As in 2012 and 2013, Apple scored high in virtually all of the measurement categories, and once again it did its biggest damage by far in the Inventory Turnover category, lapping the field with an eye-popping 83.4 inventory turnover rate. The second-best company in that category, Oracle Corp. (IW 500/36), finished well behind Apple with a still-impressive 35.7.
Apple stayed atop the IW 50 despite having a fairly quiet year on the new-product front. While the company did update most of its products, the updates were for the most part minor and incremental -- the notable exception being the Mac Pro line of Intel Xeon-based workstation and server computers.
Acquisitionwise, on the other hand, Apple was anything but quiet in 2013. In fact, the company completed 15 strategic acquisitions, making 2013 Apple's most acquisition-packed year ever.
Seven other companies in the top 10 of this year's IW 50 showed impressive staying power, having finished near the top of the list for two years running: Polaris Industries Inc. (IW 500/247), Monster Beverage Corp. (IW 500/359), Deluxe Corp. (IW 500/441), Hershey Co. (IW 500/149), Coach Inc. (IW 500/196), CVR Energy Inc. (IW 500/120), and NewMarket Corp. (IW 500/355).
Debuts & Dropouts
Ames, Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group Inc., which makes advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals and controls about 40% of U.S. sales of biodiesel fuel, vaulted into both the IW US 500 and the IW 50 rankings for the first time this year.
Renewable Energy Group had a gangbusters fiscal 2013, completing major upgrades to one of its two Texas biorefineries (all told, the company has 10 active biorefineries across the U.S.) and boosting its revenue a whopping 47.6% to $1.5 billion.
The other Top 10-placing newcomer, WABCO Holdings, a global auto parts maker based in Piscataway, New Jersey, debuted at No. 4 on this year's IW 50 list on the strength of Top 5 finishes in three categories: Profit Margin (24.0%), Return on Assets (37.4%), and Return on Equity (96.6%).
Other first-timers in this year's IW 50 include Flowers Foods (IW 500/250) at No. 16; Lear Corp. (IW 500/79) at No. 28; Nike (IW 500/44) at 33; Kellogg (IW 500/86) at 36; Northern Tier Energy (IW 500/199) at 40; Praxair (IW 500/99) at 41; PolyOne (IW 500/248) at 43; Keurig Green Mountain (IW 500/221) at 45; Valmont Industries (IW 500/272) at 46; Packaging Corp. of America (IW 500/257) at 47; Varian Medical Systems (IW 500/296) at 49; and Mattel (IW 500/166) at 50.
Notable among the 14 companies that dropped out of this year's IW 50 were Chevron (IW 500/2), Cooper Tire & Rubber (IW 500/268), Joy Global (IW 500/198), Campbell Soup (IW 500/137), Illinois Tool Works (IW 500/91), Altria Group (IW 500/49) and Delek US Holdings (IW 500/123).
Double-Digit Gainers & Losers
This year's big gainers, with IW 50 chart gains of at least 10 slots, numbered seven: Marathon Petroleum (IW 500/10), up 18 slots to No. 12; QualComm (IW 500/45), up 22 slots to No. 13; Western Refining (IW 500/110), up 34 to No. 14; IDEXX Laboratories (IW 500/471), up 10 to No. 24; Sherwin-Williams (IW 500/107), up 13 to No. 26; FMC Technologies (IW 500/151), up 13 to No. 32; and Hormel Foods (IW 500/121), up 12 to No. 35.
The top-ranked IW 50 double-digit gainer, Marathon Petroleum, posted an impressive 21.5% revenue growth, from $82.5 billion in fiscal 2012 to $100.2 billion in fiscal 2013, pushing it up three slots on the IW US 500 list, from No. 13 to No. 10.
The second-ranked IW 50 double-digit gainer, QualComm, posted an even more impressive 30.0% revenue growth, from $19.1 billion in 2012 to $24.9 billion in 2013, catapulting it from No. 63 to No. 45 on the IW US 500 list.
This year's IW 50 double-digit sliders also totaled seven: HollyFrontier (IW 500/60), down 18 slots to No. 21; Tempur Sealy (IW 500/339), down 22 to No. 27; Exxon Mobil (IW 500/1), down 28 to No. 34; Cummins (IW 500/75), down 11 to No. 38; CF Industries Holdings (IW 500/188), down 22 to No. 39; Lorillard (IW 500/155), down 19 to No. 44; and Western Digital (IW 500/82), down 34 to No. 48.
IndustryWeek compiles the IW 50 Best Manufacturing Companies ranking from the companies on its annual IW 500 list of the largest public manufacturing companies in the United States. The IW 50 is based on six financial-performance metrics -- Profit Margin, Sales Turnover, Inventory Turnover, Revenue Growth, Return on Assets, and Return on Equity -- measured over a three-year period. The most recent year -- fiscal 2013 -- accounts for 50% of the calculation; fiscal 2012 is weighted at 30%; and fiscal 2011 at 20%.