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  First Thoughts

    Dan Gilmore

    Editor

    Supply Chain Digest



 
June 1, 2017

Understanding the 2017 Gartner Top 25 Supply Chain Rankings

Dissecting this Year's List, as Now Amazon Joins the "Hall of Fame"

What are the best supply chains in the world?

The reality is there is no way to determine that, absent an incredibly detailed study of leading candidates that would even then lead to potentially dubious results and certainly be obsolete by the time the research was finished. Or, we could look at the Gartner top 25 supply chain list.

I spent two days at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference last week in Phoenix (See Trip Report: Gartner 2017 Executive Conference) but left before the big dinner Wednesday night where the top 25 list has now become unveiled each year.

Gilmore Says....

The minimum revenue to be included in the final evaluation list was again an amazing $12 billion.

What do you say?

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The former AMR Research brilliantly came up with the top 25 idea in 2004. Gartner then acquired AMR in 2010. Over the last few years, the concept has been extended, so that we now have a "Next 25," plus the top 25 healthcare, industrial, and consumer goods supply chains, etc.

So once again at the conference this year, I asked around a bit, and found - not surprisingly - that very few supply chain practitioners have any real idea how the list is determined. They only know if they are in or they are out, and that's about all that matters.

 

More on that in a second.

This year Unilever came out on top for the second year in a row (link to the full list a little later in this column).

Again this year, Apple and Procter & Gamble were left off the formal top 25, as both those companies have now been placed in a separate relatively new category, called "supply chain masters," a sort of supply chain "hall of fame." To get there, Gartner says a company needs to have attained top-five composite scores for at least seven out of the last 10 years.

Now, Amazon has also joined this masters list, after having ranked number 3 in 2016.

Why does Gartner do this? It frankly may have to do with in effect getting more companies in the top 25 plus the new masters category combined - Gartner clients like that recognition, of course.

As I have said before, I find the masters list idea a little goofy, but so be it.

With Amazon, Apple, P&G withdrawn from the competition, the rest of the top 10 was number 2 McDonald's, followed Inditex (Zara), Cisco, H&M, Intel, Nestle, Nike, Colgate-Palmolive and Starbucks.

Just two new companies made the Supply Chain Top 25 this year versus 2016, that being phone maker Nokia and spirits maker Diageo. With Amazon being promoted, just one company fell out of the top 25, that being drug maker GlaxoSmithKline.

Below is a chart of this year's Top 25, also with where each company placed in 2016 and 2015 (NA means not in the top 25 that year).

So, you ask, how on earth is the top 25 determined?

Gartner starts with the Fortune 500 list of top US companies by revenue and the Forbes global 2000 list that basically does the same thing on a worldwide basis. It then eliminates a lot of those companies because they do not much operate what most of us would think of as a real physical supply chain - companies in banking, insurance, software, and many more.

What's more, the minimum revenue to be included in the final evaluation list was again an amazing $12 billion.

From that culled list, Gartner analyzes publicly available financial data, specifically looking at three metrics from 2016 financial reports:

Return on assets (ROA): Net income / total assets
Inventory turns: Cost of goods sold / inventory levels
Revenue growth: Change in revenue from prior year

ROA and revenue growth use a three-year weighted average, meaning the most recent year gets the most weight and the two prior years somewhat less. Inventory turns, smartly, uses the prior year's quarterly average (reducing impact of end of year games). These three metrics together are given a full 40% of the total score weight (20% to ROA, 10% to turns, and 10% to revenue growth). Those percentage weightings are actually down 10 percentage points again this year, as I will explain in a moment.

Now keep in mind that this formula gives a tremendous advantage to some companies, such as Amazon given its huge revenue growth or McDonald's and its 175 inventory turns per year. It also penalizes companies like a Home Depot or a Lowes, for example, which are only going to have turns in the mid-single digits at best, because of their need to stock every item under the sun to meet customer service targets, many of which are very slow movers. In general, this approach penalizes a company within a given sector that strategically decides on a higher service, lower turns strategy (even though we can all agree that inventory efficiency is a very important attribute of supply chain excellence). It also gives an advantage to companies that grow through acquistion.

Companies that have heavily outsourced production and distribution also have an inherent advantage. Why? Because they have chosen to shed assets, and that drives their ROA metric higher. While outsourcing can be a very smart thing for many reasons, it does not inherently improve a supply chain move. This metric also inherently discriminates against asset-intensive businesses, such as chemicals and automotive. That no doubt why we see only three such companies (Schneider Electric, BASF and BMW) in the top 25, generally towards the end of the list.

So, at this point, you must be a very large and public company to be considered in the analysis. Private companies do not have the public financial data needed for this part of formula and cannot make the list.

For the second year in a row, a new corporate social responsibility factor was added, which now represents 10% of the total composite score. This factor, entered in the end as a number between 1 and 10, comes from a combination of publicly available 3rd party scores on this criteria (which you can trust as accurate or not). Number 1 Unilever again received a perfect 10 score on this measure, as did a number of others. Gartner says that metric was tweaked a bit for 2017, though exactly how is not detailed in the Top 25 document.

Another 25% of the final rankings come from so-called "peer opinion." For 2017, this consisted of about 169 apparently very influential respondents who first select a group of 25 companies from the master list of about 300 that they believe are doing the best job of being a "demand-driven value network orchestrator." Sure, we all have that list in our heads.

From those selections, respondents are then asked to rank those companies from first to last, from which points are assigned to the companies selected based on how they are scored across respondents.

So, the reference point, in theory at least, is not "the best supply chain," but rather leadership in "DDVN orchestration." Are these the same things? I would say certainly not. Gartner defines DDVN orchestration as is being "characterized by an understanding of customer value with processes and metrics that enable business trade-offs to deliver products and services profitably. Companies that work toward the DDVN ideal use demand management as a key differentiating capability, so they can plan, sense and shape in a way that brings profitable balance to the business."

The final 25% of the composite score comes from votes from 38 of Gartner's own supply chain analysts. They use the same tool and criteria that the peer group does in ranking company supply chains.

Take the financial rankings, the external CSR scores, and the votes from peer group and Gartner analyst group (again, 40%, 10%, 25%, and 25%, respectively), and voila, out spits the top 25 in something like a mathematical fashion.

Is the process perfect? Certainly not. The unstated assumption is, for example, that stellar financial results equals supply chain excellence. Only very, very large companies are considered. I am not sure demand-driven orchestration should really be the evaluation framework. Who really knows how good most other company supply chains are? And it seems clear to me that working with Gartner and even better speaking at the Executive Conference (see Schneider Electric last year and Johndon & Johnson this year) always has a beneficial effect on a compan's placement.

There are other mysteries: the scores from the peer and Garnter analyst ratings are often quite different, with this year for example Walmart being rated relatively highly by the peer group and low by Gartner; looking at the detail numbers for all the factors, it is impossible to really understand how the rankings came out as they did.

So, with all that, here in general is the advice I give to companies hoping to crack the top 25: (1) understand the methodology, especially with regard to the financial data. Not much you can really do about that, but you can at least understand how it works and do some comparisons to key competitors; (2) encourage others outside your organization to participate in the peer review process and rate you highly; and (3) most important, if you are really serious about this, arrange "briefings" with Gartner analysts touting what you are doing in supply chain in the same way that software vendors do. Ladle on significant helpings of demand-driven orchestration-ness. (Shoot me an email if you would like to discuss any of this.)

And speak at the conference.

The Gartner top 25 supply chains - it has many faults, but it is the best we've got. I look forward to it every year. It certainly stirs the pot.

Any reaction to this year's Gartner Top 25 or methodology? Do you see any ways it could be improved? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.


Your Comments/Feedback

Srihari

Senior Consultant, Infosys
Posted on: May, 22 2016
Great article. I am a little suprised not to see BNSF in the mix while I understand their financial mode/operation is a little different. 

That would only give a complete perspective with all the players in the pool.

Mike O'Brien

Senior editor, Access Intelligence
Posted on: May, 26 2016
Surprised to see Home Depot fall off the list; thought they were winning with Sync?

Julie Leonard

Marketing Director, Inovity
Posted on: Jun, 27 2016
Using the right tool for the right job has always been a best practice and one of the reasons, we feel, that RFID has never taken off in the DC as exponentially as pundits have been forecasting since 2006. While these results may seem surprising to those solely focused on barcode scanning, the adoption of multi-modal technologies in the DC makes perfect sense for greater worker efficiency and productivity.

Carsten Baumann

Strategic Alliance Manager, Schneider Electric
Posted on: Aug, 19 2016

The IoT Platform in this year's (2016) Hype Cycle is on the ascending side, entering the "Peak of Inflated Expectation" area. How does this compare to the IoT positions of the previous years, which have already peaked in 2015? Isn't this contradicting in itself?

Editor's Note: 

You are right, Internet of Things (IoT) was at the top of the Garter new technology hype curve not long ago. As you noted, however, this time the placement was for “IoT Platforms,” a category of software tools from a good number of vendors to manage connectivity, data communications and more with IoT-enabled devices in the field.

So, this is different fro IoT generally, though a company deploying connected things obviously needs some kind of platform – hoe grown or acquired – to manage those functions.

Why IoT generically is not on the curve this year I wondered myself.

 

 

Jo Ann Tudtud-Navalta

Materials Management Manager, Chong Hua Hospital, Cebu City, Philippines
Posted on: Aug, 21 2016

I agree totally with Mr. Schneider.

I have always lived by "put it in writing" all my work life.  I am a firm believer of the many benefits of putting everything in writing and I try to teach it to as many people as I can.

This "putting in writing" can also be used for almost anything else.  Here are some general benefits (only some) of "putting in writing":

1. Everything is better understood between parties involved.  There are lots of people types who need something visual to improve their understanding.
2. Everyone can read to review and correct anything misunderstood.  This will ensure that all parties concerned confirm the details of the agreements as correct.  This is further enhanced by having all parties involved sign off on a hard copy or confirm via reply email.
3. Everything has a proof.  Not to belittle the element of trust among parties involved, it is always safest to have tangible proof of what was agreed on.
4. There will be a document to refer to at any time by any one who needs clarification.
5. The documentation can be useful historical data for any future endeavor.  It provides inputs for better decisions on related situations in the future.
6. This can also be compiled and used to teach future new team members.  "Learn from the past" it is said.

There are many more benefits.  Mr. Schneider is very correct about his call to "put it in writing".





Sandy Montalbano

Consultant, Reshoring Initiative
Posted on: Aug, 24 2016
U.S. companies are reshoring and foreign companies are investing in U.S. locations to be in close proximity to the U.S. market for customer responsiveness, flexibility, quality control, and for the positive branding of "Made in USA".

Reshoring including FDI balanced offshoring in 2015 as it did in 2014. In comparison, in 2000-2007 the U.S. lost net about 200,000 manufacturing jobs per year to offshoring. That is huge progress to celebrate!

The Reshoring Initiative Can Help. In order to help companies decide objectively to reshore manufacturing back to the U.S. or offshore, the nonprofit Reshoring Initiative's free Total Cost of Ownership Estimator can help corporations calculate the real P&L impact of reshoring or offshoring. http://www.reshorenow.org/TCO_Estimator.cfm

Robert

Transportation Manager, N/A
Posted on: Aug, 30 2016
 Good article!  I am sending this to my colleagues who work with me.  We have to keep this in mind.  Thanks!

Ian Jansen

Mr, NHLS
Posted on: Sep, 14 2016
SCM is all about getting the order delivered to the Customer on date/ time requested because happy Customers = Revenue. Using the right tools to do the right job is important and SCM is heavily dependent on sophisticated ERP systems to get right real data info ASP.

I've worked in a DC with more than 400,000 line items and measured the Productivity of Pickers by how many "picks" per day.

I've learned that one doesn't have to remind Germany about your EDI orders.

Don Benson

Partner, Warehouse Coach
Posted on: Sep, 15 2016
Challenge - to build and sustain effective relationships at the level of the organizations that are responsible for effectively coordinating and colaborating in an otherwise highly competitive environment 

Jade

Admin, Fulfillment Logistics UK Ltd
Posted on: Oct, 02 2016
Of course we all need to up our game. We need to move with the times, and always be one step ahead of what the future will bring.

Mike Dargis

President of asset-based carrier based in the Midwest, Zip Xpress Inc. (at ZipXpress.net)
Posted on: Oct, 03 2016
Thanks for the article, but I know there's a lot more to this issue than just the pay rates. Please check out my blogs on the subject at www.zipxpress.net.

Blaine

Inventory Specialist, Syncron
Posted on: Nov, 16 2016
Lora, great article! I agree that companies choose the 'safe' solution more often than not. My solution is a bolt-on for legacy ERP's and we even face challeneges of customer adoption. Most like to play it safe and choose an ERP upgrade, which is more costly, time consuming, and has lower ROI across the board. Would love to learn more about your company, we are always looking for partnerships.

Blaine
blaine.schultz@syncron.com

Bob McIntyre

National Account Executive, DBK Concepts LLC
Posted on: Nov, 21 2016
This is a game changer in GE's production and prototyping.  It also has huge implications across the GE global supply chain with regard to the management of their support and spare parts network. 

Kai Furmans

Professor, KIT
Posted on: May, 22 2017
I am referencing to the comment that leasing of warehousing equipment (beyond forklift trucks) is a vision for 2030.
Just recently in Europe, such a business model has started, see here: https://next-intralogistics.de/

I am following with a lot of interest, how the business develops.

 
 
 
 

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