Apple logistics must always run smoothly, and for a company that brands itself as accessible, attainable luxury it’s no surprise that the iPhone logistics operation is one of the shining examples of a well-organized supply chain.
Their products must be ready for release simultaneously around the world with no room for error, and this is particularly true for the ever in demand next generation of iPhones. So how do they do it?
The process begins in China, a country growing and expanding in its economic and social infrastructure all the time. The cities are bustling. The opportunities for production and business growth are booming. For Apple, once they’ve announced a launch date, they typically have up to only two weeks to ensure millions of their products make it from factories in China to storefronts at all corners of the world.
The biggest aspect of this supply chain is security – the products are watched incessantly throughout warehouses, airports, customs and finally the stores they are unveiled in.
Most people think of logistics as simply being the movement of finished product to buyer, but for Apple it’s so much more than this. The individual parts and components of every iPhone have to be fetched from wherever they are created so that assembly can begin. Apple have to coordinate over 200 suppliers to ensure that assembly can begin in China, exactly on time. Sales, marketing and finance have to collaborate to ensure that enough devices will be produced: in a launch weekend, sales will be in the millions.
As the iPhones diversify, with more colours, memory sizes and models available, the process becomes further complicated. The internal sales forecast has to be correct – Microsoft saw a $900 million loss due to unsold Surface tablets. With advances in software, Apple strictly monitor the entire supply chain, able to divert extra products where they are needed, should this be required.
Such diversions are enhanced by Apple’s securing of airspace – when the first iMac was released in 1997, Steve Jobs has acquired so much of the available air freight that rival Compaq was unable to ship any goods in time for the holiday shopping season. In preparation for any new product, their dedication to securing freight has not abated.
There’s no doubt that Tim Cook’s overseeing of the Apple logistics system has created a real force to be reckoned with and shining example of the ultimate supply chain. From supplier to China to worldwide storefronts, the process is flawless and it’s no surprise that Apple celebrated the sale of their 500 millionth iPhone in 2014. With a supply chain so smooth, it can’t be long before they celebrate the billionth.