Gartner Global Executive Partner Speaks about 2017’s Top 25 Supply Chains List

August 24, 2017

Every year since 2003, at its Supply Chain Executive Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, technology research firm Gartner releases their list of the Top 25 Supply Chains in the World – a list highlighting the industry trends and major players that define what makes a best-in-class Supply Chain in today’s business environment. Last year, we were happy to have a chance to speak with Gartner Global Executive Partner Michael Massetti about the rankings. Though Gartner released its 2017 Top 25 Supply Chains List in May, we were glad to have a chance to catch up with Michael and chat about this year’s rankings: what were some of the big surprises from this year’s list? Which trends are taking off among the industry leaders?

Read on to find out some of Michael’s insights about what makes for the best-of-the-best when it comes to Supply Chains in 2017.

First, here’s the list:

  1. Unilever
  2. McDonald’s
  3. Inditex
  4. Cisco Systems
  5. H&M
  6. Intel
  7. Nestlé
  8. Nike
  9. Colgate-Palmolive
  10. Starbucks
  11. Pepsico
  12. 3M
  13. Johnson & Johnson
  14. Coca Cola Company
  15. Nokia
  16. BASF
  17. Schneider Electric
  18. Wal-Mart Stores
  19. HP Inc.
  20. L’Oréal
  21. Kimberly-Clark
  22. BMW
  23. Diageo
  24. Lenovo
  25. Samsung Electronics

Finally, Gartner added Amazon to its “Master’s” Category – joining Apple and Proctor and Gamble – to, recognize its consistent, best-in-class Supply Chain Excellence.

 “Let’s start with why Gartner does the Top 25,” Massetti says. “First of all, we strive to elevate the profession and set a high bar for what excellence is in the Supply Chain. Second, we’d like to start debate – it sparks debate within the community about who, why, how, what, where. Third, it’s to recognize the true leaders. We have 3 companies in our Master’s Hall of Fame – Amazon, Proctor and Gamble, and Apple – who continue to raise the bar for all, especially in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility.”

Trends That Supply Chain Leaders are Taking Advantage of:

“We’ve talked about elevating the profession and leading by example. 3 broad categories are evident this year: the first is digitalization. We’ve seen a number of companies implementing Internet of Things sensors, using the cloud and very advanced analytics, whether it’s for demand management, or service management – for example Pepsi using in-store camera and sensor capability to make sure there’s compliance with their standards.”

“We’re beginning to see lights out and smart manufacturing, for example with companies like Intel and Western Digital, BMW and Schneider Electric. They’ve begun to put certain parts of their manufacturing into an environment where they can run without humans, not factoring in for time of day.”

3D Printing is starting to show up in the maintenance world, especially with the military and other similar industries, where you’re able to print parts. We’re seeing companies use 3D Printing to prototype more advanced capital and equipment, without having to send something out to get it fabricated to bring it back. With metal or plastic it can take months to do a full cycle – but with 3D printing, the materials can be used time and time again. 3M is a big manufacturing company that’s been really driving heavy use of 3D Printing.”

How Digitization is Changing the Speed and Dynamics of Supply Chains:

“Another thing that we’ve noticed is maybe being driven by the changes in speed and dynamics that digitization allows – organizations are using practices aligned with being much more adaptive and flexible. In today’s Supply Chains, quick and flexible often beats reliable and slow. You’re seeing that a lot – both with H&M and Zara which is owned by Inditex. Despite a slowdown in the apparel category, you’ll see that Inditex is #3 and H&M is rated #5. These companies have shown a very adaptive capability to respond to trends, and manufacture regionally or globally to adapt very fast, compared to the 36 month lifecycle of some of their competitors.”

“We’ve all grown up in the continuous improvement environment, a Kaizen environment,” Massetti says. “What we’re seeing is companies realizing they need to be much more innovative and disruptive. We’re seeing more companies willing to invest almost like a start-up – investing in radical process innovation within their organizations. Companies are making their Supply Chains more modular: with Cisco, for example, they’ve structured a part of their Supply Chain so instead of having a number of discrete Supply Chains, instead of doing make to stock or make to order, they’re reconfiguring so there’s less fixed capability in place.”

“The other area digitization is affecting, in a big way, is talent: It requires different types of people – people who are supported by way more information and data than their predecessors. What kind of skills are these companies using to move ahead? Data scientists are key. The concept of ‘try and fail, and learn, and retry’ is key. More people are likely to become comfortable with failure as part of iteration in perfecting a Supply Chain. Deep analytics are becoming important as well. Working in a highly-collaborative environment is becoming important, as is the ability to work within diversity – which is proven to be a key part of success in many ways.

How Top-Flight Companies are Developing Supply Chain Ecosystems to Thrive:

“Sustainability is here to stay,” Massetti says. “Companies realize how important it is. If you think back 20 years ago when recycling was starting to kick in they’d say, ‘this isn’t saving me money.’ But as it started to kick in they realized the value. Sustainability is starting to show not just social value but economic value as well. Unilever is driving for a fully circular system this century – we want to figure out how to make a Supply Chain where we take nothing out, and that’s’ huge.”

“Another element that’s important is a recognition the concept of an ecosystem of people and the relationships that form the Supply Chain. Whether it’s relationships with suppliers, partners, employees, and customers all along the value chain, leaders are bringing diverse individuals together to create improvements. Colgate Palmolive – among others – is teaching people about water use, water consumption, and how to stay healthy. Schneider Electric – among others – is teaching people about energy use and how to make their equipment less energy-intensive overall. When we look at talent maturity, and companies on the leading edge of it, they have very close relationships with universities. They’re bringing in internships, helping to develop curricula, seeing it as a long-term investment in their talent ecosystem.”

“The last trend in the development of healthy Supply Chain ecosystems would be holistic customer solutions. Apple and McDonald’s are companies with very complex Supply Chains. They’ve challenged suppliers to innovate, say in packaging, and when the innovation is done it diffuses to the other suppliers but the innovating supplier gets a better price as a reward.”

New Entrants and Fast Risers:

Nokia and Diageo are the two new companies that made the list this year,” Massetti says. “Nokia deserves the comeback player of the year award. Their business model got highly disrupted several years ago, but this year they came back in with a vengeance. So they snuck in at #15 and Diageo at #23.”


A big thanks to Gartner Executive Partner Michael Massetti for taking the time to offer his insights about the Top 25 Supply Chains list for this year! Click here to dig into the list as well as the methodology behind it.  

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