Award winner: Apple Inc: Global Supply Chain Management

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This case won the Production and Operations Management category at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2022#CaseAwards2022

View the video of the award presentation on 27 May 2022.

Who – the protagonist

Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and former Chief Operating Officer (COO) of technology giant Apple Inc.

What?

As of February 2020, Apple Inc. had revenues of approximately US$265 billion making it the most valued company on the planet. Its lead product was the iPhone, with over 1.6 billion sold since it was introduced in 2007. To cope with demand, Apple had a complex supply chain of 200 suppliers located in over 800 production facilities, across 43 countries.

apple production

Why?

With the smartphone market starting to mature, challenges by new competitors and, according to critics, no game-changing new products in development, Apple needed to take steps to diversify from its dependence on the iPhone.

Apple were planning to launch a new suite of services including entertainment, news, video games and financial services, so Tim Cook needed to consider what changes should be made to Apple’s global supply chain to support its strategic objectives. What capabilities would it need as Apple’s business model continued to evolve?

When?

This case is set in February 2020, 44 years after the company was founded.

Where?

Apple’s primary iPhone suppliers include companies in the US, China, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and the Netherlands, but 90% of product assembly is done in China before being transported back to the US.

Key quote

Tim Cook
" the vast majority of our products are kind of made everywhere. There is a significant level of content in the United States, and a lot from Japan to Korea to China, and the European Union also contributes a fair amount. And so that’s the nature of a global supply chain. I think largely that will carry the day in the future as well.”
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc.

What next?

It would be difficult for Tim Cook and Apple to duplicate the capabilities and advantages offered by its Chinese suppliers, but their diversification from iPhones into wearables and services would provide additional challenges. New supply chains for different products and technologies were required along with content for entertainment and streaming services. As Apple’s business model evolved, Cook had to ensure the global supply chain continued to support it.

AUTHOR PERSPECTIVE 

This is the second win for P Fraser Johnson in the Production and Operations Management category for a case on Apple, following his win in 2016. It is also the seventh award win for Ivey Business School.

Winning the award

Fraser said: “Naturally it is always terrific to be recognised in my profession by an outstanding organisation such as The Case Centre. With the many cases that are written each year in the operations management field, I was understandably surprised to hear that my Apple case was the 2022 winner of The Case Centre Award for my discipline.

“As a professor at the Ivey Business School, the ability to write cases that resonate with students and instructors is a critical aspect of my job and career. Writing cases that instructors want to adopt in their courses helps promote the use of the case method, which is incredibly important to me personally.”

Case popularity

He continued: “I think this case stands out for two reasons. First, it effectively describes the evolution of Apple as an organisation, through the good times and bad times, and how its supply chain strategy evolved and became a critical strength and capability. Everyone knows about Apple and the products that the company makes. The case makes students think about how Apple has been able to support its business and product strategies through unique supply chain capabilities.

apple products

“Second, the case is supported with a thorough teaching note. Effective teaching notes are essential in helping instructors deliver a great classroom experience with the case.”

Writing the case

Fraser explained: “First, this case is based on published sources. Gathering data from a wide range of sources is important. Accessing published articles, press releases, analyst reports and financial records are but a few avenues.

“Second, keep the case focused on a central topic and avoid extraneous information. It is easy to load the case up with interesting data, but it needs to be relevant to the issue(s) in the case.

“Lastly, have the case focused on a decision. Do not tell a story, the newspapers can handle that job. Students should use the issue(s) and decision, in the role of the protagonist, to focus their analysis. Without a decision in the case, students will not be able to properly structure their analysis and preparation.”

Case writing advice

He continued: “A case on a company with a well-known brand name helps, but there are two other important factors. First, the issue in the case needs to be interesting and relevant, which helps provide the basis for a good class discussion. Second, a strong teaching note helps provide instructors with thorough analysis and guidance on how to deliver the case in the classroom.”

Teaching the case

Fraser commented: “This case is one of the most popular in my supply chain elective. Apple is the largest company in the world (by market capitalisation) a brand that every student is familiar with – as a result students have views about the company, both positive and negative. Students can then relate their personal experience with the information in the case. It is an easy case to teach with a lot of discussion.”

THE CASE 

The case

Who – the protagonist

Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and former Chief Operating Officer (COO) of technology giant Apple Inc.

What?

As of February 2020, Apple Inc. had revenues of approximately US$265 billion making it the most valued company on the planet. Its lead product was the iPhone, with over 1.6 billion sold since it was introduced in 2007. To cope with demand, Apple had a complex supply chain of 200 suppliers located in over 800 production facilities, across 43 countries.

apple production

Why?

With the smartphone market starting to mature, challenges by new competitors and, according to critics, no game-changing new products in development, Apple needed to take steps to diversify from its dependence on the iPhone.

Apple were planning to launch a new suite of services including entertainment, news, video games and financial services, so Tim Cook needed to consider what changes should be made to Apple’s global supply chain to support its strategic objectives. What capabilities would it need as Apple’s business model continued to evolve?

When?

This case is set in February 2020, 44 years after the company was founded.

Where?

Apple’s primary iPhone suppliers include companies in the US, China, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and the Netherlands, but 90% of product assembly is done in China before being transported back to the US.

Key quote

Tim Cook
" the vast majority of our products are kind of made everywhere. There is a significant level of content in the United States, and a lot from Japan to Korea to China, and the European Union also contributes a fair amount. And so that’s the nature of a global supply chain. I think largely that will carry the day in the future as well.”
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc.

What next?

It would be difficult for Tim Cook and Apple to duplicate the capabilities and advantages offered by its Chinese suppliers, but their diversification from iPhones into wearables and services would provide additional challenges. New supply chains for different products and technologies were required along with content for entertainment and streaming services. As Apple’s business model evolved, Cook had to ensure the global supply chain continued to support it.

AUTHOR PERSPECTIVE 

Author perspective

This is the second win for P Fraser Johnson in the Production and Operations Management category for a case on Apple, following his win in 2016. It is also the seventh award win for Ivey Business School.

Winning the award

Fraser said: “Naturally it is always terrific to be recognised in my profession by an outstanding organisation such as The Case Centre. With the many cases that are written each year in the operations management field, I was understandably surprised to hear that my Apple case was the 2022 winner of The Case Centre Award for my discipline.

“As a professor at the Ivey Business School, the ability to write cases that resonate with students and instructors is a critical aspect of my job and career. Writing cases that instructors want to adopt in their courses helps promote the use of the case method, which is incredibly important to me personally.”

Case popularity

He continued: “I think this case stands out for two reasons. First, it effectively describes the evolution of Apple as an organisation, through the good times and bad times, and how its supply chain strategy evolved and became a critical strength and capability. Everyone knows about Apple and the products that the company makes. The case makes students think about how Apple has been able to support its business and product strategies through unique supply chain capabilities.

apple products

“Second, the case is supported with a thorough teaching note. Effective teaching notes are essential in helping instructors deliver a great classroom experience with the case.”

Writing the case

Fraser explained: “First, this case is based on published sources. Gathering data from a wide range of sources is important. Accessing published articles, press releases, analyst reports and financial records are but a few avenues.

“Second, keep the case focused on a central topic and avoid extraneous information. It is easy to load the case up with interesting data, but it needs to be relevant to the issue(s) in the case.

“Lastly, have the case focused on a decision. Do not tell a story, the newspapers can handle that job. Students should use the issue(s) and decision, in the role of the protagonist, to focus their analysis. Without a decision in the case, students will not be able to properly structure their analysis and preparation.”

Case writing advice

He continued: “A case on a company with a well-known brand name helps, but there are two other important factors. First, the issue in the case needs to be interesting and relevant, which helps provide the basis for a good class discussion. Second, a strong teaching note helps provide instructors with thorough analysis and guidance on how to deliver the case in the classroom.”

Teaching the case

Fraser commented: “This case is one of the most popular in my supply chain elective. Apple is the largest company in the world (by market capitalisation) a brand that every student is familiar with – as a result students have views about the company, both positive and negative. Students can then relate their personal experience with the information in the case. It is an easy case to teach with a lot of discussion.”

THE CASE 

The author

Fraser Johnson
Leenders Supply Chain Management Association Chair

The protagonist

Tim Cook
Chief Executive Officer
Read the case

Educators can login to view a free educator preview copy of this case and its teaching note.

CASE - Reference no. 9B20D013
TEACHING NOTE - Reference no. 8B20D013
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