by Jay Zaidi
Regardless of the business domain, every firm has a Physical Supply Chain (PSC) that is married to an Information Supply Chain (ISC). Each component of the PSC has some information associated with it and this information plays a key role in ensuring that the PSC operates well – which in turn ensures the smooth operation of the enterprise. Apple is a great example of a company that has mastered its PSC and ISC.
The Apple Story
In an article titled “Can Apple become the world’s first trillion-dollar company?” by Dan Gillmor in the Guardian, the author writes the following:
“The supply side of Apple’s power is known mostly inside the tech industry. Just as Walmart revolutionized the supply chain in its own category – and then brutalized its suppliers to create cheaper and cheaper goods – Apple has made its own supply chain into the most efficient machine of its kind. This means, among other things, that Apple can sell hardware at extremely competitive prices, and given its huge margins, the company is much better-positioned than its competitors to wage price wars. Tim Cook, who formally took over the CEO job just before Steve Jobs’ death last fall, led the team that created this leviathan, and he’s clearly pushing the boundaries.”
Let me share a story to emphasize the value of an efficient global supply chain. The late Steve Jobs was testing a prototype of the first iPhone and carried it around in his pocket. After a few weeks, he noticed that the screen on his prototype had been scratched by items in his pocket. There were six weeks left to the official launch date. Jobs demanded that his management team find a better alternative – a scratch less glass screen. Apple was able to pull this off successfully, after much hard work, collaboration, innovation, ingenuity and by leveraging it’s highly efficient global supply chain.
The moral of this story is -
“Apple wouldn’t have been successful at delivering on time, while maintaining its huge margins, if it wasn’t for its single-minded focus on quality and it’s highly efficient physical and information supply chain”.
What this means to you or your firm?
I have followed Apple for several years and the company continues to amaze me. It has revolutionized three industries – personal computing, music, and mobile phones and is getting ready to make a significant impact on the text-book industry. Its done this through creativity, innovation, a passion for quality, excellent customer service and by building a highly efficient information supply chain – probably the best in the industry. Some of the benefits that firms can reap by emulating Apple’s focus on information supply chain management are:
- Reduce time-to-value
- Extract the best possible deals from supply chain partners
- Identify and address information and supply chain bottlenecks proactively
- Gain high quality business intelligence (to support decision-making), and
- Increase profit margins
This is the first of a series of posts I plan to publish. In subsequent posts, I will show you what an ISC looks like and delve deeper into its components. My aim is to show you how an efficient ISC can be designed, by using information management best practices (e.g. data quality, data integration, data governance, metadata, analytics and business intelligence) and some disruptive tools and ideas. Until next time, let me leave you with a famous quote from Steve Jobs – “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish“.