A few weeks ago, I discussed a Quora thread explaining “how Apple sends technology back from the future.” The gist is that Apple is phenomenally good at managing its supply chain, particularly for innovative technologies that haven’t hit the market yet.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek expounds on that theme in its latest issue, beginning with the story of a green laser that Apple recently added to show whether MacBook cameras are on. Adam Satariano and Peter Burrows write:
Most of Apple’s customers have probably never given that green light a second thought, but its creation speaks to a massive competitive advantage for Apple: Operations. This is the world of manufacturing, procurement, and logistics in which the new chief executive officer, Tim Cook, excelled, earning him the trust of Steve Jobs. According to more than a dozen interviews with former employees, executives at suppliers, and management experts familiar with the company’s operations, Apple has built a closed ecosystem where it exerts control over nearly every piece of the supply chain, from design to retail store. Because of its volume—and its occasional ruthlessness—Apple gets big discounts on parts, manufacturing capacity, and air freight. “Operations expertise is as big an asset for Apple as product innovation or marketing,” says Mike Fawkes, the former supply-chain chief at Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and now a venture capitalist with VantagePoint Capital Partners. “They’ve taken operational excellence to a level never seen before.”
Well worth a read.