How Did Tim Cook Fix the Apple Supply Chain?

Apple CEO Tim Cook during Mac

A user on Quora asked how exactly Tim Cook fixed the Apple supply chain. The whole discussion is an interesting one, and speaks to Mr. Cook’s expertise as an operations manager.

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The Hiring of Tim Cook

Back in 2008, Fortune Magazine talked about Tim Cook back when he was still COO. When Steve’s health problems started to become public, everyone was asking who his successor would be. Even then, many were saying that Mr. Cook was the logical choice. But why?

Mr. Cook is known to give colleagues copies of Competing Against Time, a book about using supply chains as a strategic business weapon. Apple is about controlling every aspect of the user experience, but that also applies to how it runs the business. If you have control over every aspect of the manufacturing and supply chain, you can streamline it and make it as efficient as possible.

Image of Tim Cook, who improved the Apple supply chain.

The Strategy of Tim Cook

Steve Jobs hired Tim Cook because of his expertise with supply chains, as well as something called just-in-time manufacturing (JIT). JIT is all about reducing flow times within the production system by matching raw orders from suppliers directly with production schedules.

Using JIT you can increase efficiency and reduce waste by only getting your goods as they are needed. And Mr. Cook could probably teach an advanced college course on JIT and supply chains.

After Mr. Cook was hired by Apple in 1998, the company bought US$100 million worth of holiday season air freight months in advance. This helped cut out competitors and left other computer companies scrambling during the holidays.

Next, from 1999 to 2001, Mr. Cook changed the supply chain at Apple stores. He is widely believed to have separated retail and inventory. Sales don’t control the inventory, and people that manage sales and retail don’t also manage inventory.

The entire Quora article is worth reading, and it compiles information from other articles to paint a picture of Tim Cook’s genius.

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