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Gartner announces rankings of its 2014 Supply Chain Top 25

Editorial

Gartner recently announced the findings from its 10th annual Supply Chain Top 25 at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference being held in Phoenix, AZ. A primary goal of the Supply Chain Top 25 research initiative is to raise awareness of the supply chain discipline and how it impacts business.

The top five-ranked organisations in 2014 include four that topped the list last year - Apple, McDonald's, Amazon and Unilever – in addition to P&G. Two new companies joined the Top 25 this year with Seagate Technology (No. 20) appearing for the first time and Kimberly-Clark (No. 21) re-emerging after a year's hiatus.

The list was topped once again by Apple, its seventh year running, continuing to outpace everyone else by a wide margin on the composite of financial and opinion measures used. McDonald's landed at No. 2 for the second year in a row, followed by Amazon.com in the third spot.

Gartner analysts highlighted three standout trends for supply chain leaders in 2014:

Understanding and supporting the fully contextualised customer

An enduring trait of leading companies is that customer needs and behaviours serve as the starting point for go-to-market and operational support strategies. The best of them present simple, elegant solutions to their customers, driven by conscious supply chain orchestration behind the curtain. Their centre-led cultures enable consistently high-quality customer experiences tailored, where important, to local tastes.

Supply chain leaders are expanding this demand-driven concept in terms of how they relate to their customers. It is about understanding customers in a deeper way and blending seamlessly into their daily routines. Ultimately, a deeper understanding of customers in their local environments is helping supply chain leaders capture more revenue for their businesses and improve operational effectiveness.

Convergence of digital and physical supply chains delivering total customer solutions

Leading companies have moved past selling only discrete products or services to their customers and are now focused on delivering solutions. Regardless of industry, these companies want their customers to be loyal subscribers to their solutions. Several of the leading consumer product companies on this year's list are offering e-commerce subscriptions for their products, in partnership with retailers, to create a seamless multichannel experience. This approach offers convenience and privacy to end customers that would normally buy these products in a physical store and might switch to another consumer brand during any given store shopping visit.

The more progressive industrial companies have suggested order replenishment systems with their dealer networks, based on the superior ability of the manufacturer to forecast demand for their dealer. Some have gone further and are now acting as virtual consultants to their customers' planning organisations. They recognise that helping improve customers' internal capabilities is part of a total solution, making them more competitive suppliers.

Supply chain as a trusted and integrated partner

Growth is a top priority for the C-suite in 2014, with 63 percent of senior executives picking growth as a top imperative in Gartner's 2014 CEO Survey. Leading supply chains are enabling this growth both organically and through successful M&A integration. At the same time, supply chain leaders are emerging as trusted and integrated partners to business groups. Their focus on profitable growth often leads to smarter, more conscious decision making, saving business groups from spiralling out of control in the drive to maximise revenue.

However, these successful business models are now under attack from competition. Supply chain has a large part to play in enabling the business to compete for the future, concurrent with protecting existing business. The most advanced companies in Gartner's ranking are not afraid to rethink the design of their global supply networks if that is required for success. In some cases, this has led to increased vertical integration where leaders are getting into their customers and their suppliers’ businesses in an attempt to dominate value chains, redrawing the lines of competition in the process.

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