For the second year in a row, BMW is at the tail-end of the list, but that’s certainly no slight against the German luxury carmaker, which has the distinction of being the only automotive OEM in the Top 25 rankings. The company is using Internet of Things technology to connect 3,000 machines, robots and AGVs to facilitate the production of customized vehicles, according to the Gartner analysts. On the sustainability front, BMW one of the biggest producers of electric cars, and hopes to have at least a dozen fully electric cars by 2025, and the company has achieved a 42% reduction in emissions over the past 25 years.
AkzoNobel, a Dutch paint and coatings manufacturer, is one of two first-timers on the Top 25 list this year (the other being Alibaba). The Gartner analysts point to the company’s Incubator as an example of how AkzoNobel focuses on product innovation—it’s a small, self-contained group of entrepreneurial types tasked with exploring new technologies that create value for the user. As a chemical producer, the company believes that sustainability is key to its corporate strategy, as it seeks to closely monitor the activities of its entire supply chain in terms of ethical, social and environmental values.
Adidas has taken its proficiency in running shoes and athletic apparel to heart with its launch of the Speedfactory concept, which uses robots, 3-D printing and other automation technologies to quickly create customized sneakers in what the company describes as a hyperflexible and localized manufacturing process. Like other big apparel makers, Adidas outsources most of its production overseas. However, the company recently signaled to the investment community that it’s experiencing problems with some of its Asian suppliers, who’ve been unable to keep up with the demand for more products as the company has expanded its line into mid-market priced apparel.
German chemical producer BASF uses supply chain visibility technology to provide real-time updates of freight shipments to their customers. As Gartner’s analysts describe it, BASF’s customer service strategy is to transition from a functional focus to an entire ecosystem of functions supported by digitally-powered supply chain services. Sustainability is another area of emphasis, as the company is a co-founder of the global Alliance to End Plastic Waste. BASF’s ChemCycling project aims to manufacture products based on chemically recycled plastic waste. The company has also begun implementing Operation Clean Sweep, a global initiative formed to prevent plastic pellet, flake and powder loss and to keep these materials out of the environment.
21. Samsung Electronics
Samsung Electronics, a Korean consumer electronics giant, dropped a few notches from # 17 last year, which Gartner’s analysts attribute in part to slowing growth. To reenergize its product line, Samsung’s Strategy and Innovation Center continues to explore and invest in disruptive technologies, such as robotics, AI, autonomous vehicles, digital healthcare devices, Internet of Things and other applications of data-driven technology. The company’s Bot Care robots, for instance, help people manage their daily health routines by measuring things like blood pressure, heart rate, sleeping and breathing, as well as alert family members when somebody is experiencing a medical emergency.
Soft drink giant Coca-Cola takes a very analytical approach to its supply chain; for instance, the company collects a ton of customer data from its Freestyle vending machines, which provide Coke with customer preferences to flavors and inclination to purchase new products, explain Gartner’s analysts. The company is also focused on improving its transportation and logistics capabilities, concentrating on lowering rates, optimizing loads and improving delivery performance. The company’s sustainability efforts are wide-ranging though not necessarily all that effective, at least when it comes to its practice of using local water sources for its products. Coke’s efforts at recycling and reducing waste in its production processes have gotten better results to date.
19. Home Depot
A year ago, home improvement retailer Home Depot announced its plans to spend $1.2 billion over a five-year period to improve its supply chain operations, and to that end the company has already leveraged its distribution network to the point where it can reach 95% of the U.S. population within two days, and 30% within one day. By adding 170 distribution facilities, the retailer hopes to reach 90% of the U.S. population in one day or less. As Gartner’s analysts point out, the company is also focusing on introducing express delivery service to 35 major metro areas, which includes 20,000 of its most popular products. Home Depot may not quite be in Amazon’s league when it comes to e-commerce retail, but they’re working on it.
18. Novo Nordisk
Novo Nordisk, a Danish manufacturer of insulin and other medicines, has set a goal for full end-to-end, customer-focused supply chain optimization by 2021, note Gartner’s analysts, and part of the vehicle to get them there is through analytics. As Gartner explains, Novo Nordisk has created a hybrid analytics group to enhance decision-making, as the company seeks to improve forecasting accuracy, increase asset utilization and reduce bias in its supply chain. The company also continues to prioritize its Responsible Sourcing program for its suppliers, and participates in numerous industry activities, such as the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative, which promotes responsible supply chain management throughout the healthcare field.
Industrial products manufacturer 3M, like many other companies on the Top 25 list, is a heavy user of disruptive technologies. As you’ve probably already begun to notice, Gartner’s analysts are particularly keyed in on the technology deployments utilized to advance supply chain management, and 3M is no exception. For instance, 3M is using Internet of Things technology to develop AI-based applications, including supply chain analytics, inventory optimization, fraud detection and predictive healthcare, as part of its enterprise-wide digital transformation. The company also intends to source half of its total electricity from renewables by 2025.
Gartner’s analysts refer to Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M as “a beacon of sustainability capabilities,” awarding them a perfect 10 for CSR. That takes a bit of tunnel-visioning, when you consider H&M is constantly under a cloud of accusations that workers throughout its global supply chain are subjected to sweatshop conditions and unsafe facilities. One recent report from the Clean Clothes Campaign, for instance, suggests that workers in H&M’s Cambodian factories earn less than half the country’s living wage, while those in India and Turkey factories earn less than a third of their respective country’s living wages—charges that H&M denies, as you would expect. Meanwhile, the retailer is using various disruptive technologies throughout its supply chain processes, such as AI to optimize logistics, RFID item tagging and 3-D printing.
L’Oréal, the French cosmetics and fragrance giant, emphasizes speed to market, and to that end the company uses a cognitive supply chain planning tool that provides visibility from end to end. Other technologies in use by L’Oréal include automated packaging, 3-D printing, machine vision, predictive maintenance, and real-time dashboards, according to Gartner’s analysts. The company is also committed to a 60% reduction in its carbon footprint (based on 2005 numbers), and plans to get 100% of its key suppliers involved in its supplier sustainability program.
Although not even ranked among the Top 10, retail giant Walmart’s supply chain proficiency is legendary, to the extent that it was by far the favorite of all the Top 25 companies for the peer vote. Having launched a number of high-impact supply chain technology-focused industry initiatives over the years—from EDI to RFID to blockchain—the company recently rolled out and deployed an advanced workforce scheduling system to more than 1.1 million employees in roughly 4,600 stores. Walmart is also expanding its logistics capabilities through a pilot test of driverless delivery vehicles that would transport goods via autonomous vans on regular runs from distribution centers to warehouses. The retailer is also doubling its number of electric vehicle charging stations to over 1,000, as part of its multi-faceted sustainability push.
Making its debut on the Top 25 list, e-retailer Alibaba, which first emerged as a kind of Chinese version of Amazon, has followed Amazon’s lead by putting a huge emphasis on logistics. As the Gartner analysts note, Alibaba relies heavily on a third-party logistics (3PL) strategy to facilitate deliveries throughout mainland China, which despite the spectacular growth of the Chinese economy is still challenged when it comes to infrastructure upgrades throughout the country. The company has also begun stretching its capabilities into Western markets, focusing on improving logistics in such areas as segmentation of services, transportation modes and network design.
Diageo, a British producer of popular spirits brands like Baileys, Guinness and Johnnie Walker, is using technology in several innovative ways throughout its supply chain. For instance, the company has begun using aerial images taken by drones to improve agricultural production, according to the Gartner analysts. Other technologies the company has been using including supply chain control towers, blockchain and digital collaboration tools. On the sustainability front, Diageo is focusing on three areas: responsible sourcing, reducing environmental impact and agricultural value chain partnerships. The company’s long-running Water of Life initiative, for instance, has improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene for more than 10 million people in 21 countries.
11. Schneider Electric
Earlier this summer Schneider Electric, a French company that provides energy management and automation solutions, launched its first Smart Factory in the U.S. to demonstrate how the Internet of Things and other technologies can drive process optimization. The Smart Factory is part of the company’s Tailored Sustainable Connected 4.0 supply chain digital transformation, which aims to leverage digitization across Schneider’s supply chain operations to deliver end-to-end integration and visibility to enhance its performance. Some of the other technologies the company is deploying include blockchain, robotics, data analytics, digital customer logistics and AI.
As a maker of footwear and sports apparel, Nike plays the supply chain game on both sides of the field. On the offense side, the company emphasizes its “Express Lane” strategy which, as Gartner’s analysts point out, is designed to cut times in half thanks to Nike’s use of rapid prototyping and 3D and digital printing to enable supply chain agility. Data, too, is a key part of Nike’s playbook, as the company is staking its competitive advantage on such technologies as digital demand sensing, consumer analytics, connected inventory and even an upgraded ERP system. However, the company still has quite a ways to go to defend itself against its reputation of benefiting from slave labor when it comes to identifying the integrity of the offshore companies Nike uses to actually make its shoes and shirts. While Nike embroils itself in “woke” conversations over kneeling quarterbacks in the U.S., a more relevant conversation that the entire apparel industry needs to be having is why so much of its labor force overseas tends to be low-skilled women and migrants. Gartner gave Nike a failing grade of 4 (out of 10) in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) category.
While former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s campaign for the U.S. Presidency has cooled, the coffee giant he founded continues to brew up supply chain strategies to connect with its customers. Working with Microsoft, Starbucks has applied machine learning-based reinforcement learning technology to develop a next-generation mobile app that allows customers to not only order exactly the type of food or beverage they want, but to receive recommendations on other products based on their preferences (if you’re lactose-intolerant, for instance, the app won’t suggest any dairy-based products). Starbucks is also using blockchain and real-time traceability technologies to provide transparency throughout its global supply chain, in the process helping to empower the farmers growing the coffee beans. The company’s global growth is also being enabled through a strong third-party logistics (3PL) partner network, note the Gartner analysts.
8. Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson
There always seems to be an ominous supply chain cloud hovering over healthcare products giant Johnson & Johnson, and yet neither product recalls nor legal troubles seem to have had much impact on the company’s high ranking on the Top 25 list; quite the contrary, as the company jumped up 10 notches—from 18 to 8—over the past year. Despite charges J&J’s talcum powder products were contaminated with asbestos and more than 14,000 lawsuits alleging Johnson’s Baby Powder causes cancer, the company still managed to score a perfect 10 in Gartner’s corporate social responsibility category. J&J’s high ranking is due largely to its e-commerce capabilities for consumer products and a case management portal for its medical devices, as well as championing of such technologies as robotics, autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things.
3-D printing is not only one of high-tech pioneer HP’s key business strategies, but is also an enabler of the company’s own supply chain initiatives. As Gartner’s analysts explain, HP uses its own 3-D printers to create hundreds of parts for its equipment. Automation is another area of focus within HP’s supply chain, including robotics, automated guided vehicles and even drones. The company also has invested in technologies such as supply chain analytics and business intelligence, machine learning, image recognition and chat bots, as well as a logistics control tower capable of adapting to real-time changes. Gartner also gives HP a “perfect 10” score for CSR, largely due to the company’s efforts in recycling and sustainability.
Last fall, chip giant Intel announced a reorganization effort that would effectively split its operation into three divisions: Technology Development, Manufacturing & Operations, and Supply Chain. The move was prompted in part due to the company’s challenges in launching its long-delayed 10-nanometer CPUs, and will help centralize the entire company. As Gartner’s analysts point out, Intel operated with zero working inventory last year as a way of coping with the supply constraints the high-tech industry faced in 2018, and the chip-maker relied on automated planning, predictive analytics and end-to-end visibility to maximize capacity at its factories. Intel is even offering mass customization of its products to serve an increasingly diverse customer base.
5. Cisco Systems
Among the Top 10 companies, only coffee retailer Starbucks had a higher inventory turn rate (12.7) than networking equipment giant Cisco System’s 10.2 rate, further validation that the company’s supply chain efforts are paying off. Like Intel, Cisco had to weather significant supplier component constraints in 2018, which it accomplished by shifting from a product-centric to an offer-based customer strategy. As a long-time pioneer in developing and deploying technology to advance its supply chain operations, Cisco is using blockchain, IoT, AI and machine learning, among other technologies. The company also is focusing on an enterprise-wide circular economy effort, according to Gartner’s analysts, which includes planning, sourcing, manufacturing and delivery throughout its entire supply chain.
Supply chain technology is the secret sauce behind food and beverage giant PepsiCo’s success, as the company has embraced demand sensing and machine learning to improve the quality of its direct store delivery forecasts throughout its network, according to the Gartner analysts. On the material handling side, PepsiCo is investing in things like robotic unloading and smart packaging, using beacons to track assets and measure consumer engagement. But just as important to the company’s success is its investment in its workforce, specifically in programs like Women in Operations, which helps connect female supply chain colleagues, and Leadership Investment For Tomorrow (LIFT), which aims to develop and advance women in Pepsi’s supply chain.
Chocolate food & beverage giant Nestlé is another company whose “perfect 10” score on the Gartner CSR is a head-scratcher, given the accusations that the company has aided and abetted child slavery on cocoa plantations in Africa. However, the company’s legal issues notwithstanding, Nestlé has taken the concept of personalization to impressive levels, allowing consumers to customize their own products. The company also took the unusual step of disclosing its list of suppliers as well as various data related to its 15 priority commodities, as part of Nestlé’s initiative to reach full supply chain transparency. The disclosure includes Tier 1 suppliers, upstream locations and country of origins, as well as total volume sourced for each commodity.
Alone among the Top 10 companies, Spain’s Inditex is probably the only one that isn’t a household name, as the company is better known for its Zara brand of fast-fashion retail stores. But within supply chain circles, Inditex is very much a trend-setter, thanks in part to its use of RFID tags on every product in every Zara store. As the Gartner analysts point out, RFID has helped propel Inditex’s online growth, enabling the deployment of next-day and in some cases, same-day delivery. The company is also using such advanced technologies as warehouse robots, location intelligence, virtual assistants and predictive analytics.
Colgate-Palmolive proclaims its reliance on palm oil in its very name, which may be why the company has proactively taken a “no deforestation” stance, with the stated goal of sourcing palm oil only from sources that are responsibly and sustainably produced by 2020. Similarly, by 2020 the consumer packaged goods giant plans to only source paper and packaging from recycled and responsible sources that do not contribute to deforestation and that respect human rights. Colgate-Palmolive’s end-to-end digital control tower provides the company with daily visibility throughout its supply chain, and the company is also using predictive analytics and AI to improve production throughput and quality.
It almost seems like a punishment that after having finally made it to the top of the Gartner charts in 2018, Dutch consumer packaged goods giant Unilever got shuffled over to the “Masters” category, and thus is no longer considered part of the regular “Top 25” list. According to Gartner’s analysts, the company is pushing the digital capabilities of its supply chain and manufacturing processes forward into numerous areas: procurement, maintenance, process control, sales and operations planning, forecasting, and of course traceability. Unilever is holding firm on its commitment to have 100% traceability of its palm oil and plantations by the end of the year.
Fast food restaurant chain McDonald’s wants to have the freshest supply chain in the business, as the company has set itself the goal of phasing out frozen beef in favor of only fresh meat at its stores. And that’s just for starters, as Gartner reports that the company hopes to eliminate all supply chain activities from its stores, relying instead on its ability to orchestrate execution across a network of strategic suppliers and service providers. On the technology front, Mickey D’s is developing an online portal to improve its worker development and training, a particularly crucial labor management activity given the fast food industry’s reputation of 50% or more annual staff turnover. And earlier this year, McDonald’s acquired Dynamic Yield Ltd., a provider of personalization and decision logic technology, which the company says will help it personalize the customer experience by varying outdoor digital drive thru menu displays, and instantly suggesting additional items to a customer’s order based on their current selections.
Despite competition from fellow retail giants on the Gartner list like Walmart and Home Depot, e-retail behemoth Amazon has, perhaps more than any other company in this century, redefined the very nature of supply chain management. While it’s easy to point to the company’s pioneering efforts in technology—warehouse robots, drones, cashierless stores and various smart home devices such as Alexa—what’s actually made Amazon a supply chain game-changer is as simple as a promise: free delivery (for a price, of course). As the Gartner analysts point out, Amazon isn’t just a retailer any more, either—the number and diversity of the products it manufactures—from backpacks to Kindle readers to pet waste bags makes them a direct competitor to many of its own suppliers, and even more of a force to reckon with in the future.
-3. Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble
Consumer packaged goods giant Procter & Gamble has been around for more than 180 years, a testament not only to the strength of its brands but its decision long ago—in fact, back before companies like Apple, Amazon and Inditex were even a gleam in their founders’ eyes—to concentrate on close coordination between its suppliers and its customers; in other words, supply chain management. As Gartner’s analysts explain, P&G’s current focus is on segmented supply chain strategies, transitioning from a “one-size-fits-all” strategy to one that’s based on customized, regionally-based logistics. To enable that kind of just-in-time delivery capability, the company needs its key suppliers either on-site or as close as possible—a rather daunting task when you consider P&G has operations in roughly 80 countries. The company plans to draw heavily on automation, robotics and various disruptive technologies as it ramps up its “mega factory of the future” concept to improve efficiency and dramatically reduce delivery times to its retail customers.
High-tech giant Apple has been at the very tippy-top of the Gartner rankings for a long time, and while a lot of the reason for that is its ability to create—not just satisfy—customer demand, it’s been Apple’s supply chain proficiency that allows it to meet that demand, even as the company continues to post record revenues year after year. The company refuses to rest on its laurels and is tireless in its pursuit of the Next Big Thing, which could very well be the Apple Car or more precisely, the software engine that would control self-driving passenger vehicles. Apple also has greatly improved its CSR reputation, and has reportedly reduced its carbon footprint by 35% since 2015.