Category winner:
Apple Inc: Managing a Global Supply Chain

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This case won the Production and Operations Management category at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2016
The case

Who – the protagonists

Jessica Grant, an analyst with BXE Capital (BXE), a money management firm based in Toronto.


Despite its commercial success, Apple’s stock was at $524.47 on 28 February 2014, 25 per cent below the $700 level it had reached in 2012. Tim Cook, Apple Inc.’s CEO, reassured investors that the firm was focused on the future following the death of Steve Jobs. But industry observers were sceptical that the company could deliver new product successes.

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Apple was yet to launch a major new product under Tim Cook, although he was deftly managing the iPhone and iPad product lines which were continuing to deliver enormous profits. Nevertheless, it was clear to Jessica that Apple’s product range would get more complex in the next few years. As part of her analysis of Apple’s stock, she wanted to look at the company’s supply chain to see if she could gain some insight into the pros and cons of Apple as a key holding in BXE’s fund.


Siemens flagsApple Computer was founded on April 1, 1976, by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Mike Markkula to manufacture and distribute desktop computers. Its range of iconic products now includes iPhones, iPads, Mac PCs, iPods and the Apple Watch. Software includes the OS X and iOS operating systems, iTunes, Safari web browser and iCloud.

electric meterWhere

Apple’s headquarters are in Cupertino, California, US. It serves customers worldwide and has over 450 stores in 16 countries, including the UK, Australia, France, Spain and Hong Kong, China.

Key quote

‘Apple has so much cash that it can invest in cutting-edge, world-class machinery that is typically used for aerospace and defence.’ – Muthuraman Ramasamy, Analyst with Frost & Sullivan.

What next?Siemens flags

What changes, if any, should be made to BXE’s portfolio? Jessica pored over Apple’s financial information from 1996 to 2013, as well as important segment information, before summarising her notes on the company’s supply chain. Then she started to prepare a one-page outline of the pros and cons for her presentation to Phillip Duchene, BXE’s Vice President.

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Apple Inc.: Managing a Global Supply Chain
Ref 9B14D005

Teaching note
Ref 8B14D005
The authors

P. Fraser Johnson and Ken Mark

Fraser discusses his award-winning case and why writing cases is a critical aspect of his job as a professor.

Surprised and pleased

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 2016 winner of The Case Centre Award for my discipline.

Siemens flags

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.

Standing out from the crowd

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 make students think about how Apple has been able to support its business and product strategies through unique supply chain capabilities.

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.

Top tips

When writing a case from published sources, it’s important to first gather data from a wide range of sources. 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.

About the authors

P. Fraser Johnson is Professor, Operations Management at Ivey Business School.

Ken Mark is a Case Writer at Ivey Business School.


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