Gartner Inc. has released the findings from its annual Supply Chain Top 25, identifying supply chain leaders and highlighting their best practices. Analysts announced the results at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference, which is being held this week at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix, AZ.
“2017 marks the 13th year of our annual Supply Chain Top 25 ranking,” says Stan Aronow, research vice president at Gartner. “This year we have an impressive group of leaders with new lessons to share, including two more recent entrants from the high-tech and consumer product sectors.”
Aronow told SCMR in an interview that he was surprised to discover how quickly the most mature supply chains have adopted digital capabilities, including cognitive computing and advanced warehouse and factory floor automation, in the last two years.
“There is a growing gap between these leaders and rest of the supply chain community,” he says. “The talent to go after the most leading-edge capabilities is limited and the solution market is still immature, so we’re now seeing partnerships and consortia form across elite companies, regardless of industry, along with top academic research institutions, to create their own solutions for cognitive planning, sourcing, logistics and manufacturing.”
He adds that he is tracking whether all these technologies will be collaborative with supply chain workers (“cobots”, cognitive advisors, etc.) or if there will be a structural impact to supply chain organizations.
“Despite some striking performances, however, today’s supply chain leaders face a much different business environment than just 12 months ago,” says Aronow. “A general trend toward protectionism, as evidenced by Brexit and the policies of the current U.S. administration, has caused some companies to shift supply network design decisions and create contingency plans in anticipation of new trade policies. Continued investment in innovative supply chain capabilities will be required to meet this changing landscape.”
Unilever topped the Supply Chain Top 25 ranking for the second consecutive year in 2017, followed by McDonald’s, Inditex, Cisco and H&M (see Table 1). Two new companies made the Supply Chain Top 25, with Nokia rejoining after a seven-year hiatus and Diageo making the list for the first time.
Perennial supply chain leader Amazon joined Apple and P&G in qualifying for the “Masters” category, which Gartner introduced in 2015 to recognize sustained leadership over the last 10 years.
“Hardly a day goes by without another announcement of Amazon’s foray into a new market, ownership of its own logistics capabilities or filing of patents to improve customer experience,” says Aronow. One indicator of Amazon’s outsized influence on retail is the simultaneous real estate boom in distribution centers and bust of brick and mortar stores in the U.S. over the past two years.
Apple continues to improve and innovate both its solutions and the means of producing them. While the company has backed off plans to produce its own cars, it is still actively working on autonomous vehicle technology and experimenting with augmented reality (AR) technologies.
Consumer product giant P&G continues to innovate through digital automation of workflows, and the use of algorithm-driven tools to reduce exceptions and enable end-to-end planning. In recent years, P&G has also accelerated its investment in people and environmental initiatives.
Along with the Masters category, the Supply Chain Top 25 continues to offer a platform for insights, learning, debate and contributions to the rising influence of supply chain practices on the global economy.