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So the current issue of Businessweek has an article on Apple that I am basically (given my profession) obliged to love (Apple’s Supply-Chain Secret? Hoard Laser, Nov 3). It opens by recounting how Apple invested heavily in a special kind of laser in order to implement a design element (a little green light on a laptop so that users would know that the camera is on) and builds to this: Most of Apple’s customers have probably never given that green light a second thought, but its creation speaks to a massive competitive advantage for Apple: Operations. This is the world of manufacturing, procurement, and logistics in which the new chief executive officer, Tim Cook, excelled, earning him the trust of Steve Jobs. According to more than a…show more content…
Similarly, when iPod sales took off in 2001, Apple realized it could pack so many of the diminutive music players on planes that it became economical to ship them directly from Chinese factories to consumers’ doors. When an HP staffer bought one and received it a few days later, tracking its progress around the world through Apple’s website, “It was an ‘Oh s—’ moment,” recalls Fawkes. In thinking about ops at Apple, it becomes clear that Apple is very much like past poster children of operational excellence like Wal-Mart, Toyota, and Southwest. It is not that Apple’s operational skills are great in an absolute sense. Rather it is that their operations are so intertwined with everything else that they are doing, they are essential to carrying out their strategy in the marketplace. For example, Apple has a limit product line. They don’t settle for producing a few hip halo products that attract attention but were never intended to sell in high quantity. Virtually everything Apple does aims to be both hip and high volume. That means when they work with suppliers they are in a position to demand that things go their way. Further, they aim to give the customer things she doesn’t know she needs yet. That means they are making big bets on production technologies or components before the competition knows they need that skill or that component. All of that would be horribly risky if they were not so good at

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