For the seventh year in a row, Apple captured the top slot, and by a comfortable margin over # 2 McDonald’s. The high-tech pace-setter has proven adept both at selling traditional electronic products (such as the iPhone and iPad) as well as digital products (through its iTunes store). To remain so dominantly at the top for so long, Apple obviously cannot afford to rest on its supply chain laurels, and as Gartner’s analysts point, the company is investing $10 billion in manufacturing tooling and equipment to automate production of its popular devices, while bringing component sourcing for some of its products back in-house.
Retail giant Walmart has made the Top 25 every year in the list’s 10-year existence, and in the past year the company’s online sales growth (30%) actually topped Amazon’s. In addition to pioneering distribution network optimization in various facets, Walmart continues to push for the latest and greatest technology to track and trace products throughout the supply chain. Other areas of supply chain focus for the retailer include omni-channel distribution, sustainability scorecards and the Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience, a hybrid, aerodynamic tractor-trailer prototype developed with Peterbilt and other vendors.
If Starbucks’ numbers are to be believed, its retail stores ring up more than 3 billion customer sales per year, at its chain of 20,000 stores. Any way you look at it, that's a lot of coffee, requiring an immense global supply chain reach. As Gartner’s analysts explain, Starbucks’ current supply chain transformation program includes more than two dozen initiatives, focused on such areas as omni-channel retailing, commodity management programs, new product development, and ethical sourcing.
22. Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson has the distinction of also appearing on Gartner’s Top 25 Healthcare Supply Chains list (at #7), which is impressive when you consider all the bad press the company has received—particularly its McNeil division—for various supply chain glitches and infractions in recent years, such as product recalls and government-ordered factory closings. Nevertheless, J&J’s focus on improving its perfect order and customer satisfaction rates, as well as its adoption of analytics tools, helped make it the only pharmaceutical manufacturer on the Top 25.
Industrial conglomerate 3M wants you to know it’s much more than just the maker of Scotch tape and Post-It notes. The company embraces innovation itself as its main product, exemplified in a new immersion cooling technology designed to increase supercomputer efficiency while lowering the energy use of data centers. 3M’s use of regional supply chain centers of excellence allow the company to target products to specific countries and regions.
Truck engine manufacturer Cummins has long been a champion of the “clean and green” movement, having led the rollout of cleaner diesel engines at the beginning of this century. The company’s adherence to Six Sigma standards has helped the company meet the exacting standards of the Environmental Protection Agency while expanding its business overseas. Cummins’ supply chain center of excellence has driven initiatives in supply network design optimization and synchronized business planning.
Consumer packaged goods giant Colgate-Palmolive relies heavily on a culture of global people management, especially since more than 80% of its customers live outside of the United. States. “Supply chain management is getting exponentially more complex, so supply chain talent is the price of admission for the next decade,” explains Linda Topping, the company’s chief procurement officer. The company is also well regarded for its proficiency in product lifecycle management.
Cisco’s supply chain proficiency dates back to the dawn of the Internet age, when its routing equipment helped power corporate networks. Today, with the market for networking gear in decline, Cisco is reinventing itself as an enabler of the Internet of Everything, and is heavily investing in supply chain talent development. The company is also well known for its collaborative planning and risk management capabilities.
Sustainability is clearly paying off for Unilever, which again ranks ahead of its principal rivals P&G and Colgate-Palmolive on the Top 25 (although peer voters still prefer P&G, though by a slim margin). The company continues to shift its supply chain to emerging markets, guided by CEO Paul Polman’s insistence that “sustainable growth is the only acceptable model of growth in the future." Gartner’s analysts point out that Unilever is optimizing its distribution network using cost-to-serve insights from its customers and suppliers.
Lean Six Sigma is one of the core capabilities of PepsiCo’s supply chain organization, according to Gartner’s analysts. The company also engages in collaborative planning with its retailers, with the ability to now pinpoint specific location-product-timing promotions. PepsiCo’s demand-shaping is driven by digital marketing signals, and the company is also well regarded for its water management initiatives.
Inditex is said to be the biggest fashion company in the world, with more than 6,200 retail stores worldwide under various brand names, the best-known being Zara. While there are fewer than 50 Zara stores in the U.S., the retailer’s supply chain activities are well known, as the company has successfully compressed its time-to-market cycle down to a couple weeks, rather than the months it typically takes for apparel companies. Zara might need a refresher course in basic customer service, though, as the retailer has developed a reputation for catering only to the thin, eschewing the plus-size market.
5. Procter & Gamble
Over the years, consumer packaged goods giant Procter & Gamble has elevated collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment (CPFR) to a supply chain art form, and Gartner’s analysts describe P&G as having one of the mature demand management capabilities of any company in any industry. P&G recently opened an innovation center in Singapore which will house 250 research labs, with the aim of testing, reformulating and launching products faster. The center will also use 3-D printing to develop new product packaging designs more quickly.
Up until late last year, Qualcomm could boast that not only did it have one of the top supply chains in the world, but that it also produced devices that enhanced other companies’ logistics capabilities. Although Qualcomm sold off its Omnitracs fleet management solutions product line in 2013, the semiconductor manufacturer maintains a supply chain strategy focused in such areas as factory capacity utilization analytics and planning cycle time reductions, with the goal of improving its product launch performance in a very competitive market.
Caterpillar, a manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, has emerged as one of the leading proponents of the reshoring movement in the United States. Not only has Cat opened or updated a number of production facilities in the U.S. in recent years, but it has also led to increased hiring of U.S. workers at supplier companies within Cat’s supply chain. The company is also focusing on several supply chain initiatives, including inventory optimization, network modeling and increased visibility.
Every daily, people consume 1.8 billion beverages produced and distributed through Coca-Cola’s supply chain, a consumption rate equal to the entire global population drinking a Coke product every four days. To ensure its supply chain is up to the demands of such a wide ranging customer base, in an era when consumers are increasingly turning away from carbonated drinks in favor of healthier alternatives—Coke leverages analytics for supply network and inventory optimization. The company also is investing heavily in talent development within its supply chain organization.
Warehouse robots by the thousands. Delivery drones. A fleet of same-day grocery delivery trucks. Amazon has certainly outgrown its reputation as the nation’s biggest online bookseller (although recent reports of Amazon strong-arming some publishers suggests the e-retailer is still heavily invested in keeping as big a piece of the bookseller pie as possible). Gartner’s analysts compare Amazon’s supply chain to the well-known razor-and-blade model, with the Kindle and upcoming phone and set-top TV models serving as the razor, and its vast inventory of digital content as the constantly-in-need-of-replenishment blades.
16. Lenovo Group
Lenovo no longer sits in IBM’s shadow, as the Chinese PC manufacturer continues to climb up the Top 25 list (it also helps that Gartner, for inexplicable reasons, says IBM is ineligible for consideration because its income is largely derived from services, despite the billions in revenues the company earns from its mainframe and server products). IBM’s recent announcement that it would sell off its server business to Lenovo should only enhance the Chinese company’s reputation, which is built on a data-driven approach to global supply chain network design.
In the footwear and apparel industry, Nike has led the way in the adoption of product lifecycle management practices, and Gartner’s analysts point out that the company’s FlyKnit technology has made it easier to create and launch new product categories. As with other apparel brands, Nike offshores the production of its goods to foreign suppliers, necessitating constant and close monitoring of these companies to ensure worker health and safety, which in some cases has meant dropping suppliers when they fail to comply with Nike’s standards.
Chipmaker Intel relies heavily on its IT department to create solutions aimed at improving the company’s supply chain performance, and those efforts have paid off. Intel points to such accomplishments as a 65% reduction in order fulfillment lead time, 50% reduction in order-to-delivery time, and a 3x increase in responsiveness to customers. Current supply chain initiatives are focused on such areas as transportation optimization, vendor-managed inventory and improved warranty management. Intel has also championed industry efforts to eliminate the use of conflict minerals via a smelter validation process.
6. Samsung Electronics
To say that Samsung Electronics dominates the smartphone market is a bit of an understatement; in the first quarter of 2014, Samsung shipped more devices than its next four closest competitors (including Apple) combined, according to IDC estimates. Besides smartphones, the Korean consumer electronics manufacturer also produces cameras, TVs, computers, kitchen appliances, computers and security devices. Gartner’s analysts add that Samsung’s supply chain department works closely with key customers through collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment programs.
Kimberly-Clark missed the cut in 2013, but returned to the Top 25 in 2014, thanks in large part to its continuous improvement efforts. The manufacturer of personal and healthcare products has focused on reducing its cash-to-cash cycle while collaborating with some of its competitors to share logistics resources and capacity. Benchmarking and best practices are key components of Kimberly-Clark’s supply chain culture.
20. Seagate Technology
Seagate Technology is the only first-time company to appear in the Top 25 list this year (helped in part when two slots opened up when Dell went private and was no longer eligible for the Gartner list, and Ford just plain dropping off the list). Seagate becomes the seventh high-tech firm on the Top 25 list, thanks both to solid financial performance as well as creative applications of supply chain technology, such as its use of analytics to create a “heat map” of potential risks within its supplier base.
Though perhaps best known for its chocolate candy bars, Swiss food and beverage producer Nestlé is made up of many global brands, with a product line that also includes coffee, tea, frozen foods, juice and flavored milk. To manage its customer-centric supply chain, the company relies on data analytics to achieve demand excellence. As Gartner’s analysts observe, Nestlé also heavily immerses itself in emerging markets with programs such as a “Cooking Caravan” that educates people in several African countries about the importance of hygiene and balanced diets.
Within the past year, fast-growing Swedish apparel retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) finally opened up a webstore for the U.S. market. The company’s three-year weighted average return-on-assets of 26.7% is the highest of any company in the Top 25, far out-distancing Apple’s ROA average of 20.5%. H&M’s support of various corporate social responsibility initiatives also factors in to the company’s supply chain best practices. The retailer currently has more than 230 stores in the U.S., and plans to open as many as 375 stores worldwide in 2014.
Sure, everybody is familiar with the McDonald’s brand, but it’s not merely name recognition that landed Mickey D’s at # 2 on the Top 25. Consider this: Every day, the fast-food retailer serves nearly 1% of the entire world’s population through its supply chain. The company is constantly launching new products, and as Gartner’s analysts point out, McDonald’s has a laser focus on collaborative planning and inventory management, working closely with its franchisees and suppliers to drive profitability.