苹果供应链的秘密

标签:企业管理供应链苹果

访客:29968  发表于:2012-05-13 09:37:06

The iPhone maker spends lavishly on all stages of the manufacturing process, giving it a huge operations advantage.

November 03, 2011

苹果iPhone的制造商在产品所有制造阶段的慷慨投入,为苹果公司创造了巨大的运营优势。

About five years ago, Apple (AAPL) design guru Jony Ive decided he wanted a new feature for the next MacBook: a small dot of green light above the screen, shining through the computer’s aluminum casing to indicate when its camera was on. The problem? It’s physically impossible to shine light through metal.
大约5年前,苹果设计大拿首席设计师乔纳森·艾夫(Jonathan Ive)决定在下一代MacBook笔记本上设计一个新特性:当摄像头打开的时候,屏幕上有一个很小点的绿光可以穿过笔记本的铝制外壳。问题是?从物理属性上,光线不可能穿透金属。

Ive called in a team of manufacturing and materials experts to figure out how to make the impossible possible, according to a former employee familiar with the development who requested anonymity to avoid irking Apple. The team discovered it could use a customized laser to poke holes in the aluminum small enough to be nearly invisible to the human eye but big enough to let light through.
根据一名熟悉该开发过程的苹果前任雇员反映,为了不惹怒苹果该雇员是匿名,艾夫(Jonathan Ive)找来一堆制造业及材料专家指望解决这个不可能成为可能。这个团队研究发现,可以使用一个定制激光在铝壳上打一个足够小的孔让光线从中穿过,而小孔人眼近乎看不见。

Applying that solution at massive volume was a different matter. Apple needed lasers, and lots of them. The team of experts found a U.S. company that made laser equipment for microchip manufacturing which, after some tweaking, could do the job. Each machine typically goes for about $250,000. Apple convinced the seller to sign an exclusivity agreement and has since bought hundreds of them to make holes for the green lights that now shine on the company’s MacBook Airs, Trackpads, and wireless keyboards.
应用这个方案到大规模生产却是另一回事。苹果需要激光,很多的激光设备。团队里的专家找到了一个美国公司,它制造的用于微芯片生产的激光设备,经过稍微调整可以适用。每台机器大约25万美金。苹果公司买了数百台用于打孔,然后说服厂家签署一个排他性协议,现在苹果产品MacBook Air笔记本、触控板及无线键盘上都有这样发绿光的小孔。

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 dozen interviews with former employees, executives at suppliers, and management experts familiar with the company’s operations, Apple has built a closed ecosystem where it exerts control over nearly every piece of the supply chain, from design to retail store. Because of its volume—and its occasional ruthlessness—Apple gets big discounts on parts, manufacturing capacity, and air freight. “Operations expertise is as big an asset for Apple as product innovation or marketing,” says Mike Fawkes, the former supply-chain chief at Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and now a venture capitalist with VantagePoint Capital Partners. “They’ve taken operational excellence to a level never seen before.”
大多数用苹果产品的消费者几乎不会多想这个发绿光的小孔,但这个创新却为苹果公司带来了巨大的竞争优势:运营。这是一个融合了制造、采购和物流的世界,正是因为精于此道,苹果的新CEO蒂姆·库克(Tim Cook)才赢得了史蒂芬·乔布斯(Steve Jobs)的信任。通过采访十几位众多前任雇员、供应商及熟悉苹果公司运营的管理专家,事实上苹果公司已经建立了一个紧密的供应链生态系统,从设计到零售店,控制了供应链所有环节。凭借巨大需求量以及偶尔的残酷议价,苹果从配件、制造产能及空运方面获得了很大的折扣。“像产品创新或市场营销一样,运营技能被苹果认为是公司的重要资产”前供应链主管、美国风险投资公司VantagePoint Capital Partners合伙人迈克·福克斯(Mike Fawkes)说,“他们拥有前无古人的卓越运营能力。”

This operational edge is what enables Apple to handle massive product launches without having to maintain large, profit-sapping inventories. It’s allowed a company often criticized for high prices to sell its iPad at a price that very few rivals can beat, while still earning a 25 percent margin on the device, according to the estimates of Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. And if the latest rumors are to be believed, Apple’s operational expertise is likely part of what gives the company enough confidence to enter the notoriously cutthroat television market by 2013 with a TV set that would tightly integrate with existing Apple software like iTunes. The widespread skepticism over Apple’s ability to compete in such a price-sensitive market, where margins are often in the single digits, is “exactly what people said when Apple got into cell phones,” says Munster.
这种运营优势使得苹果可以在无需囤积大量高成本库存的情况下实现大规模的产品发布。美国投资银行Piper Jaffray分析师基尼·蒙斯特(Gene Munster)表示,这也使得这样一家一直因为定价过高而备受批评的企业,能够以几乎无人能及的低价出售iPad,而且依旧可以借此赚取25%的利润率。倘若最新的传言属实,苹果的运营技能可能会在该公司2013年进军竞争激烈的电视机市场时发挥重要作用。这类产品有望将iTunes等现有苹果软件与电视机紧密整合。由于电视机市场对价格十分敏感,因此利润率通常仅为个位数,导致市场普遍怀疑苹果在这一市场的竞争力。但蒙斯特却表示,“苹果进军手机市场时,人们也是这么说的。”

Apple began innovating on the nitty-gritty details of supply-chain management almost immediately upon Steve Jobs’s return in 1997. At the time, most computer manufacturers transported products by sea, a far cheaper option than air freight. To ensure that the company’s new, translucent blue iMacs would be widely available at Christmas the following year, Jobs paid $50 million to buy up all the available holiday air freight space, says John Martin, a logistics executive who worked with Jobs to arrange the flights. The move handicapped rivals such as Compaq that later wanted to book air transport. 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.
几乎就在乔布斯1997年回归之后,苹果立刻就开始在供应链管理的细节上展开创新。彼时,多数电脑制造商都通过海运获取零部件,因为这种方式的运费远低于空运。物流行业高管约翰·马汀(John Martin)表示,为了确保新款半透明iMac能在次年圣诞节期间全面铺货,乔布斯花了5000万美元买断了圣诞购物季期间所有可用的空运空间。马汀曾经与乔布斯共同安排了那一次的空运计划。此举令康柏等临时想要增加空运订单的竞争对手陷入绝望。与之类似,当iPod 2001年上市时,苹果也意识到,由于飞机可以容纳大量iPod,完全可以直接通过空运方式将这类产品从中国的工厂送到消费者的门口。当一名惠普员工订购了一部iPod,并在几天后收到订单后,他通过苹果网站追踪到这款产品竟然经过了环球旅行。“当时简直令我们抓狂。”福克斯回忆道。

That mentality—spend exorbitantly wherever necessary, and reap the benefits from greater volume in the long run—is institutionalized throughout Apple’s supply chain, and begins at the design stage. Ive and his engineers sometimes spend months living out of hotel rooms in order to be close to suppliers and manufacturers, helping to tweak the industrial processes that translate prototypes into mass-produced devices. For new designs such as the MacBook’s unibody shell, cut from a single piece of aluminum, Apple’s designers work with suppliers to create new tooling equipment. The decision to focus on a few product lines, and to do little in the way of customization, is a huge advantage. “They have a very unified strategy, and every part of their business is aligned around that strategy,” says Matthew Davis, a supply-chain analyst with Gartner (IT) who has ranked Apple as the world’s best supply chain for the last four years.
只要有必要,便可以投入巨资,并通过长期的规模效应获得利益——这种思路已经贯穿在苹果的整个供应链中,起点则是设计阶段。艾维和它的工程师有时会花费数月时间住在酒店房间里,为的就是接近供应链和生产商,以便对工业流程进行调整,从而将原型产品转换成可以大规模生产的设备。由于MacBook机身使用了unibody一次成型工艺,需要用一块完整的铝片制成,因此在生产这种新设计时,苹果的设计师会与供应商共同开发一种专用的新设备。这种专注于几条产品线,并对设备进行定制的能力,成为了苹果的一大优势。“他们拥有非常统一的战略,所有的业务都围绕这一战略展开。”Gartner供应链分析师马修·戴维斯(Matthew Davis)说。他将苹果评为最近4年来全球供应链最佳的企业。

When it’s time to go into production, Apple wields a big weapon: More than $80 billion in cash and investments. The company says it plans to nearly double capital expenditures on its supply chain in the next year, to $7.1 billion, while committing another $2.4 billion in prepayments to key suppliers. The tactic ensures availability and low prices for Apple—and sometimes limits the options for everyone else. Before the release of the iPhone 4 in June 2010, rivals such as HTC couldn’t buy as many screens as they needed because manufacturers were busy filling Apple orders, according to a former manager at HTC. To manufacture the iPad 2, Apple bought so many high-end drills to make the device’s internal casing that other companies’ wait time for the machines stretched from six weeks to six months, according to a manager at the drillmaker.
等到投产时,苹果又会亮出一个重型武器:超过800亿美元的现金和投资。该公司表示,今后一年计划将供应链资本开支增加一倍,达到71亿美元,并计划为关键供应商提供24亿美元预付款。这一策略确保了苹果能够获得了充裕且廉价的零部件,有时还会因此限制其他企业的选择。据HTC的一名前管理人员透露,在iPhone 4去年6月发布前,由于各大生产商都忙于交付苹果的订单,HTC等竞争对手甚至无法采购到足够的屏幕。据一家钻孔机厂商高管透露,为了生产足够的iPad,苹果还购买了大量的高端钻孔机,以便为该产品生产内壳,导致其他企业需要等上6周至6个月才能拿到机器。

Life as an Apple supplier is lucrative because of the high volumes but painful because of the strings attached. When Apple asks for a price quote for parts such as touchscreens, it demands a detailed accounting of how the manufacturer arrived at the quote, including its estimates for material and labor costs, and its own projected profit. Apple requires many key suppliers to keep two weeks of inventory within a mile of Apple’s assembly plants in Asia, and sometimes doesn’t pay until as long as 90 days after it uses a part, according to an executive who has consulted for Apple and would not speak on the record for fear of compromising the relationship.
苹果的供应商通过大量订单获得了丰厚收益,但同时也因为众多附加条件而倍感痛苦。据一名为苹果提供过咨询的行业高管透露,当苹果索取触摸屏等零部件的报价时,会要求厂商提供报价的所有细节信息,包括材料和人工成本估算,以及厂商自身的预估利润。苹果还要求众多关键的供应商在苹果亚洲组装工厂1英里(约合1.61公里)范围内保持2周的库存。但厂商有时要等到苹果使用零部件90天后才能拿到货款。

Not every supplier gives in. An executive who works with a major parts manufacturer says that Apple’s bargaining tactics tend to exert downward pressure on prices, leading to lower profits and margins. After months of negotiations, the company declined a $1 billion payment from Apple that would have required the supplier to commit much of its manufacturing capacity to Cupertino’s products. The executive familiar with these talks, who asked not to be named because the discussions were not public, says that while deals featuring $1 billion in cash up front are basically unheard of, his company didn’t want to be too dependent on Apple—and didn’t want to help it deflate prices.
但并非所有供应商都买苹果的账。一家大型零部件厂商的高管称,苹果的交易策略会对价格造成压力,挤压厂商的利润。在经过了数月的谈判后,该公司拒绝了苹果10亿美元的预付款,原因是苹果要求该供应商承诺将多数生产能力都提供给苹果。这位熟悉这类谈判进程的高管表示,尽管从没有哪家企业愿意支付10亿美元的预付款,但他们不想过度依赖苹果,也不想帮助苹果压价。

Apple’s control reaches its crescendo in the leadup to one of its famed product unveilings, a tightly orchestrated process that has been refined over years of Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad debuts. For weeks in advance of the announcement, factories work overtime to build hundreds of thousands of devices. To track efficiency and ensure pre-launch secrecy, Apple places electronic monitors in some boxes of parts that allow observers in Cupertino to track them through Chinese factories, an effort meant to discourage leaks. At least once, the company shipped products in tomato boxes to avoid detection, says the consultant who has worked with Apple. When the iPad 2 debuted, the finished devices were packed in plain boxes and Apple employees monitored every handoff point—loading dock, airport, truck depot, and distribution center—to make sure each unit was accounted for.
在新品发布前夕,苹果对供应链的控制会达到顶峰。通过Mac、iPod、iPhone和iPad的发布,苹果多年以来已经充分实现了各个部门之间的密切配合。在产品发布前几周,工厂便会加班生产数十百万台设备。为了追踪生产效率,并确保产品在发布前夕对外保密,苹果还会在部分包装箱内安装电子监视器,使得该公司的总部员工可以追踪中国工厂的状况,防止泄密。前述为苹果提供过咨询的人士称,为了逃避检查,苹果至少有一次将产品装在土豆包装箱内运输。当iPad 2发布时,苹果将所有成品都放在包装箱内,并由该公司的员工监视每一个传送点——码头、机场、卡车仓库以及分销中心——以此确保每台设备不出问题。

Apple’s retail stores give it a final operational advantage. Once a product goes on sale, the company can track demand by the store and by the hour, and adjust production forecasts daily. If it becomes clear a given part will run out, teams are deployed and given approval to spend millions of dollars on extra equipment to get around the bottleneck.
零售店则是苹果的最后一项运营优势。一旦产品开始销售,该公司就可以通过零售店时刻了解产品需求,并调整每天的生产预期。如果某种零部件明显会出现短缺,苹果的团队就会部署相应的计划,并申请数百万美元购买设备,以便打破生产瓶颈。

Apple’s enormous profits—its gross margins were 40 percent last quarter, compared with 10 to 20 percent for most other hardware companies—are in large part due to this focus on operations, which is sure to remain a priority under Cook. The new CEO is known to give colleagues copies of Competing Against Time, a book about using supply chains as a strategic weapon in business. According to Martin, the logistics executive, Cook uses a catchphrase to hammer home the need for efficiency: “Nobody wants to buy sour milk.”
苹果上一季度实现毛利率40%,而多数硬件厂商的毛利率仅为10%至20%。苹果的巨额利润很大程度上得益于其对运营业务的专注。在库克的领导下,这显然仍将成为该公司的发展重点。这位新CEO曾经送给同事们多本《与时间竞争》,这本书讲述的是如何将供应链作为一项战略武器来使用。据物流行业高管马汀透露,库克经常用一句标语来强调效率的必要性:“没人愿意买变质的牛奶。”

The bottom line: Apple plans to double spending on its supply chain, to $7.1 billion, continuing its focus on streamlining and controlling manufacturing.
苹果计划加倍投入它的供应链,达到71亿美金,继续专注于优化和控制生产。(BusinessWeek)

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