There are many well-run supply chains in the world, but Apple's shines above the rest, according to the research firm Gartner Inc.
The consumer electronics company best known for its iPhones, iPads, and iPods was again ranked number one on Gartner Research's 2014 list of the top 25 supply chains. This is Apple's seventh consecutive year at the top of that ranking.
Gartner's annual report on supply chain leaders, now in its 10th year, ranks companies for supply chain excellence based on such criteria as return on assets, revenue growth, and inventory turns, as well as on analyst and peer opinions.
Seagate Technology (number 20) joined the list for the first time, and Kimberly-Clark (number 21) rejoined the top 25 after a year off the list. There was no movement, though, among the top four companies. McDonald's once again commanded the number two spot, while Amazon and Unilever again held the third- and fourth-ranked positions, respectively. The consumer products giant Procter & Gamble rose one notch, from the sixth to the fifth position, while Cisco Systems kept its number 7 slot. Meanwhile, last year's number five-ranked supply chain, Intel, dropped to eighth place, and Samsung Electronics climbed from the eighth spot to sixth. Coca-Cola dropped down from the ninth spot to 10th this year, trading places with Colgate-Palmolive, which moved up from 10th to ninth.
In its report, Gartner identified three major trends among the top 25 companies. Analysts found that leading companies use customers' needs and behaviors as the starting point for their go-to-market and operational support strategies. In that regard, the research firm said, the best companies "present simple, elegant solutions to their customers, driven by conscious supply chain orchestration behind the curtain."
Leading companies also are moving their supply chains away from selling discrete products and services and are focusing on delivering more comprehensive solutions. Gartner cited the example of several of the consumer products companies on its top 25 list that are offering e-commerce subscriptions for their products, in partnership with retailers, to create a seamless multichannel experience.
Finally, the firm noted that the most advanced companies in its rankings are not afraid to rethink the design of their global supply chain networks, especially if it will help the business better compete in the marketplace.
Here are Gartner's picks for the 10 best supply chains:
The entire top 25 list and the accompanying report are available here.