Top 25 Supply Chains of 2020

Sept. 18, 2020
Our annual look at how the best companies incorporate supply chain best practices into their daily operations.

How do you define “world-class” when it comes to a supply chain? What are the characteristics that separate the good from the great, that differentiate between companies that are doing fine from those that are doing fantastic? For the past 16 years, analyst firm Gartner has offered a way to at least partially answer those questions through its Top 25 Supply Chains program.

Gartner begins the process of determining the world’s best supply chains by narrowing the focus pretty dramatically. For starters, only public companies with annual revenue of over $12 billion are considered; to thin the herd even further, only companies in the manufacturing, retail and distribution industries are evaluated. Among the industries excluded from the Top 25 rankings are: airlines, railroads, trucking companies, package delivery companies, shipping companies, construction firms, entertainment, healthcare, metals producers, energy companies, banks, oil & gas, pipelines, and utilities. So many companies who are actually in the business of supply chain management aren’t actually eligible for the Top 25 program.

That being said, there’s really no other supply chain ranking comparable to the Gartner Top 25, which is why we take a close look at their findings every year. The analyst firm focuses on several key metrics in its evaluation, and they’re constantly tweaking and updating their methodology to get as close as possible to a true representation of best practices in the supply chain arena. One of the key metrics new to the 2020 rankings is return-on-physical assets (ROPA), replacing the return-on-assets (ROA) measure used in previous years. ROPA accounts for 20% of the total score assigned to each eligible company.

Gartner is also now referring to environment, social and governance (ESG) practices, rather than the previous corporate social responsibility (CSR) label, though there still remains a bit of a disconnect between what a company claims to be doing on the sustainability front and what they’ve actually accomplished. ESG accounts for 10% of the score. Revenue growth and inventory turns, respectively, also account for 10%.

The other 50% of the score is basically based on opinion and reputation: 25% is based on the opinions of 44 Gartner analysts, and 25% is based on the opinions of peer voters (supply chain practitioners, professionals and experts; in the interests of full disclosure, I am part of the peer panel). So there is a bit of a popularity contest feel to the final results.

According to Gartner’s analysts, the three key factors differentiating best-in-class supply chains this year are being purpose-driven organizations, business model transformers and digital orchestrators. Those are all good buzzwords, but what exactly do they mean? In our analysis that follows, we’ll take a closer look at what these companies are doing that makes them so good at supply chain management.

Before we get to the Top 10, though, let's take a look at the companies that sit on the periphery of that exalted list, namely numbers 11-25. For those of you keeping score at home, six new companies made it into the Top 25 this year (indicated in bold below), with computer maker Lenovo making the most impressive debut, all the way up to 15.  And of course, six companies had to drop off the list to make room for the new ones; missing from the Top 25 this year are Novo Nordisk, Home Depot, Samsung Electronics, BASF, Adidas, and Akzo Nobel.

25. Kimberly-Clark

24. Biogen

23. Reckitt Benckiser

22. 3M (17)

21. British American Tobacco,

20. H&M (16)

19. Starbucks (9)

18. BMW (25)

17. AbbVie

16. Nike (10)

15. Lenovo

14. Diageo (12)

13. Coca-Cola (20)

12. HP Inc. (7)

11. Walmart (14)

Before we get to the Top 10, a quick reminder from previous lists that Gartner came up with a "Masters" category a few years ago. Companies that score in the top five for at least seven out of the last 10 years are moved off the Top 25 list into a separate category that recognizes their "sustained leadership" (while also making it possible for some new companies to make it into the Top 10). So you won't see supply chain stalwarts Amazon, Apple, McDonald's, Procter & Gamble, or Unilever in the Top 10 because they're in a class of their own.

If you'd like to take a look at previous Top 25 slideshows, you can click on any of the links below:

Top 25 Supply Chains of 2019

Top 25 Supply Chains of 2018

Top 25 Supply Chains of 2017

Top 25 Supply Chains of 2016

Top 25 Supply Chains of 2015

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