MGMT605 Introduction to Supply Chain Management




Supply Chain Management

Module Code

MGMT605 Introduction to Supply Chain Management

Please read the Case Study and answer all questions at the end of the paper.
Papers should be submitted via dropbox by Friday April 21, 2023. Please ensure
your name , ID number and section number are on the cover page. This Case
Study can be used to replace any quiz grade up to a maximum grade of 60
percent (therefore the replacement grade will not be more than 60 percent).

Source: https://www.ukessays.com/assignments/case-study-of-apples-global-supply-

Multinational Corporations are businesses that at one given time operate in more
than one country. They generally have factories and offices in different countries and
a centralized headquarters in another. Apple is a multinational corporation that
produces complex consumer products. This piece of writing will study, one of Apples
most popular products the iPhone. The Supply-Chain Council defined a supply chain
as “the effort involved in producing and delivering a final product from the supplier’s
supplier to the customers customer” (Kranz 1996). Apples global supply chain has
been stated to be one of the most innovative supply chains to transpire in the last
three decades. (Lockamy 2017).
Apple has been regarded as having a competitive advantage above its competition
and this is not simply because of its marketing and exceptional design, it is because
of its domination of the advanced consumer supply chain. The iPhone’s design
process takes place at apples headquarters ‘Apple Park’ in Cupertino, California.
Previously they had their own separate unit in Valley Green Drive California. The
move allowed CEOs to work more closely with the design team. (Cult of Mac, 2015).
A major part of Apples global supply chain is its use of numerous suppliers for the
same component. Apple have a extensive network of third-party suppliers in its
supply chain. In total apple has 785 suppliers in 31 countries worldwide. 341
suppliers are situated in China. According to Apple’s 2015 supplier list’ 97% of its
supply chain is accounted for by its top 200 suppliers (Apple.com, 2019). This would
mean that 585 of Apple’s suppliers account for the remaining 3% of its supply chain,
providing it with a significant degree of latent
capacity. (Aicd.companydirectors.com.au, 2015).
Mike Fawkes, the former supply chain chief at Hewlett-Packard, stated “because of its
volume – and occasional ruthlessness- Apple gets big discounts on parts,
manufacturing capacity, and air freight.” (Satariano and Burrows, 2011). One of the
key advantages to apple having multiple suppliers for the same component is that

they can mitigate supply chain delays and disruptions, allowing it to maintain gross
margins. Apple can also encourage lower supply costs as multiple suppliers compete
for its businesses

Diagram showing Apple iPhone suppliers locations
(Econlife.com, 2019)
The manufacturing stage of the supply chain takes place in a centralized location in
Zhengzhou China. The materials and components for the various suppliers are
shipped via air to the factory in china, aiming to save time and money. The factory is
run by Foxconn, a multinational electronic manufacturer. There are 94 production
lines at the Chinese manufacturing site. It takes about 400 steps to construct the
iPhone, which includes soldering, drilling and polishing. The factory can produce up
to 500,000 iPhone a day. (Nytimes.com, 2019)
The distribution stage either involves products being directly shipped to the
consumer via FedEx or UPS or being sent to Apples main central warehouse facility in
Elk Grove California, and products will be supplied from there.
To become more environmentally friendly, the final stage of Apples global supply
chain is return; This is either trading in an old iPhone or an old product being
recycled. If a consumer wants to recycle an old product there is an opportunity to do
this by sending/ returning the product back to the apple store or sending it to
dedicated recycling facilities. Each country has slightly different return procedures,
but the recycling takes place within the country of return. (Apple (United Kingdom),

This diagram shows Apples five key stages in their global supply chain.
(Smbp.uwaterloo.ca, 2019)
Comparative advantage theory
The Comparative advantage theory is popularly attributed with the 19th century
economist David Ricardo. The theory developed from Adam Smith’s Absolute
Advantage Theory, which claims that countries should only produce goods that they
have an absolute advantage in. His theory failed to explain, what happens when a
nation had an absolute advantage in the production of all goods (Intelligent
Economist, 2019). The Comparative Advantage Theory aims to overcome this issue,
the theory refers to an economy’s ability to generate goods and services at a lower
opportunity cost than of trade partners. A comparative advantage gives an
organisation the ability to sell goods and services at a lower price than its
Ricardo stated that “A country will export products that it can produce at low
opportunity costs and import products that it would otherwise produce at high
opportunity costs”. (Pugel 2016). Apple Imports its components from all over the
globe, for example the iPhone capacitive touchscreen controllers are sourced from
Massachusetts, while the casing is imported from Huangpu China. (Apple.com, 2019).
Apple using suppliers form all over the world, supports Ricardo’s Comparative
advantage theory. Purchasing products from all over the globe, suggest Apple are

getting them for the lowest price possible and that the country of import has the
lowest opportunity cost of that component.
The theory argues that “those who have natural or learned absolute advantage can
do even better for themselves by focusing on those skills and buying other goods
and services from those who produce them at relatively low costs”. According to
Ricardo, “nations specialise in industries where they have lower opportunity cost and
trade based on these comparative advantages all the countries enjoy gains from
international trade” (Gyi, 2016). The United States could have produced the
components for the iPhone themselves, however with regard to the global supply
chain, their strongest skill is the design stage. Therefore, using their absolute
advantage, it is more beneficial to them to import the components from all over the
world. Furthermore, the iPhone is manufactured in China, Apple could have used just
Chinese suppliers to avoid large transportation coasts. However, Apple have chosen
to use suppliers from all over the globe to produce the iPhone. Apples deciding to
use various suppliers, supports the comparative advantage theory. In order to sell the
iPhone at a reasonable cost and still make a large profit, Apple needs to pay as little
as possible for each component; this involves purchasing from countries that have
lower costs than any other country.
The iPhones manufacturing stage takes place in a factory in China. In 2012 a
report stated that many of its workers earn less than $17 a day (EDITORS, 2012). The
graph below illustrates the minimum wages from different countries around the
world. Chinas wages might not be the lowest but compared to an American factory
wage there is a considerable difference. The average United States factory employee
gets paid $12.04 per hour. (Indeed.com, 2019). The theory explains the reason why a
country might produce and export something that its citizens don’t seem very skilled
at producing when compared directly to the citizens of another
country. Comparative advantage theorists state that citizens of the importing
country (USA) must be even better at producing something else, making it worth it
for them to pay the have the work done by the exporting country. Ricardo states that
“the citizens of each country are better off specializing in producing only the goods
at which they have comparative advantage, even if one country has an absolute
advantage at producing each item” (The Library of Economics and Liberty,
2019). This is true in Apple’s case; The United States are more skilled at designing
the iPhone, hence why it is located in U.S, whereas China can manufacture the phone
at a cheaper price than the U.S giving them an comparative advantage.

The graph below shows the average minimum wages around the world.
(Business Insider, 2019)
However, this theory fails to explain why Apples recycling takes place in multiple
locations all over the world, rather than the country who have the lowest opportunity
cost. The comparative advantage theory main arguments is ‘that one economy will
have the ability to generate good and services at a lower opportunity cost that of any
trade partner’. Surely according to this theory one country must have the ability to
recycle products at a lower opportunity cost than another. Therefore, this theory fails
to explain why each country that supplies Apple products also recycles their own
Technology based theory
Earlier theories such as the relative factor endowment, assumed that the techniques
of production were fixed and given, however these assumptions can only be valid in
a static system. The recent changes in technology have significant effects on
production and trade.
Raymond Vernon created the product cycle model; the theory is founded upon
experience of the U.S market. The model explains that a product is initially produced
and exported by the innovating country but finally it ends up as an importing
country of the same product or same differentiated variety of that product. in Apples
case, this is true as they now import the iPhone from China back to America. In 1960
Vernon found that a large proportion of the world’s new products came for the
United States. He concluded that the U.S was the first to introduce technological

driver products. The product cycle model claims that the factor requirements of a
product changes over time, so that there is a cycle in the production of it.
Below is a diagram of Vernon’s product cycle model.

(Dudovskiy, 2014)
The Product cycle model emphasizes the need for product standardization. When a
product is first introduced, it generally requires a highly skilled labour force to
produce the item. When Apple first introduced products, the design team and the
labour force were based in the United States and it took Apple a lot longer to
produce an item, compared to when Apple produce a new product now. The
manufacturing factory in China employ 350,000 workers, in the United Sates there
are only 83 cities that have the same population as Foxconn number of employees.
This shows that the number of possible employees is not enough to cover Apples
needs. (Pino, 2018)
The theory explains when a Product is in it introduction stage, it is always more likely
to be introduced in a developed nation, this is due to the fact that more high-income
consumers are able to buy and are willing to experiment with new, expensive
products. This is true for the iPhone, for example the iPhone X was first realised in the
US on the 3rd November and the it was not realised in Malaysia till November
24th. (Apple Newsroom, 2017)
Vernon argues that when the product matures and acquires mass acceptance, then it
will become standardized and can be produced by mass production techniques and
a less skilled labour force. It can be argued that the workers on the production stage
of the iPhone are a less skilled labour force compared to the workers on the design
team. Foxconn Is the main factory where the iPhone is produced, it has 94
production lines and they are able to produce 500,000 iPhones a day. They can

roughly employ 350,000 workers, many of these workers are paid $1.90 an hour
(Nytimes.com.2019). Due to these high figures and the low salaries it suggests they
are not as skilled as the workers in the design team otherwise the wages would
reflect their skill level. Foxconn operating a production line system indicates that the
iPhone has been standardized, therefore agreeing with the product life model. In
comparison, the design team is located in California, to work on such a team,
applicants have to go through six different recruitment stages, four of them being
interviews (Jacobs, 2018). This suggests that Apple will only employ highly skilled
workers for the design team and that’s why it is located where highly skilled workers
are based.
The theory believes due to comparative advantage over time, the product shifts form
the advanced nation that originally introduced it to less advanced nations, where the
labour is relatively cheap, the innovating country ends up as net importer of the
product. Apple sources its iPhones components from all over the globe one of these
locations is Laguna in the Philippines. It can be claimed that the Philippines is not an
advanced nation and the labour to produce the component is expected to be
relatively cheap; therefore, agreeing with the theory. However, Apple started using
the Chinese manufacture Foxconn in 2000, the first iPhone was not produced until
2006, meaning Apple had already been using Foxconn for six years, prior to the
introduction of the iPhone; Consequently, China has always been exporting the
iPhone. This proves that Apple have always used less advanced nation to produce
their iPhone, suggesting that Apples global supply chain does not fit with the
product cycle model.
An issue with the product cycle model is that it is based upon assumptions, these are:
“The producers in capital-rich countries initially introduce new products”. For the
iPhone this assumption is true because The United States Is a capital rich country and
they introduce the product. However, lower income countries like Mexico and Brazil
have been adapting new products. The second assumption is that the innovating
firms have some real or imagined monopolistic advantage. The third assumption is
that “the need and opportunities of the domestics market stimulate the innovation of
new product”. (Mulder, 2019) These assumptions make it difficult to use the model
for smaller companies that are not based in capital rich nations
In conclusion Apple’s global supply chain fits with some of the main ideas of both
the Comparative Advantage theory and the Technology based theory. However there
are parts of the global supply chain that neither theory can explain.
Reference List
• Aicd.companydirectors.com.au. (2015).
A case study of Apple’s supply chain. [online] Available at:


[Accessed 19 Nov. 2019].
• Apple.com. (2019).

Supplier List. [online] Available at: https://www.apple.com/supplier-
responsibility/pdf/Apple-Supplier-List.pdf [Accessed 19 Nov. 2019].

• Apple Newsroom. (2017).
iPhone X arrives in 13 additional countries. [online] Available at:

thailand-turkey-and-10-more-countries/ [Accessed 10 Dec. 2019].

• Business Insider. (2019).
Here’s How America’s Minimum Wage Stacks Up Against Countries Like India, Russia,

Greece, And France. [online] Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/a-look-at-
minimum-wages-around-the-world-2013-8?r=US&IR=T [Accessed 10 Dec. 2019].

• Clarke, T. and Boersma, M. (2015).
The Governance of Global Value Chains: Unresolved Human Rights, Environmental
and Ethical Dilemmas in the Apple Supply Chain. Journal of Business Ethics, 143(1),
• Cult of Mac. (2015).
How the super-secret Apple Industrial Design group works. [online] Available at:
https://www.cultofmac.com/303396/design-studio-behind-iron-curtain/ [Accessed 1
Dec. 2019].
• Dudovskiy, J. (2014).
Vernon’s Product Life Cycle – Research-Methodology. [online] Research-Methodology.
Available at: https://research-methodology.net/vernons-product-life-cycle/
[Accessed 10 Dec. 2019].
• EDITORS, E. (2012).
The iEconomy: How Much Do Foxconn Workers Make?. [online] Economix Blog.

Available at: https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/24/the-ieconomy-how-
much-do-foxconn-workers-make/ [Accessed 2 Dec. 2019].

• Gyi, D. (2016).
“Evolution of international trade theories from Absolute Advantage to Competitive
• Intelligent Economist. (2019).
Absolute Advantage | Intelligent Economist. [online] Available at:
https://www.intelligenteconomist.com/absolute-advantage/ [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019].
• Jacobs, H. (2018).
My Apple Product Design Internship Interview. [online] Medium. Available at:
[Accessed 10 Dec. 2019].
• Lockamy, Archie III (2017)
An examination of external risk factors in Apple Inc.’s supply chain, supply chain
forum: An international Journal, 18:3, 177-188 DOI: 10.1080/16258312.2017.1328252
• Mulder, P. (2019).
Product Life Cycle Stages theory by Raymond Vernon | ToolsHero. [online] toolshero.
Available at: https://www.toolshero.com/marketing/product-life-cycle-stages/
[Accessed 5 Dec. 2019].
• Nytimes.com. (2019).
An iPhone’s Journey, From the Factory Floor to the Retail Store. [online] Available at:

[Accessed 20 Nov. 2019].
• Kranz, Steven (1996),
“What Is It?” Purchasing Today October 1996 V.4 P.4
• Pugel, T. (2016).
International Economics. 16th ed. McGraw-Hill Education.
• Pino, G. (2018).
Why Does Apple Manufacture in China?. [online] Sourci. Available at:
https://www.sourci.com.au/why-apple-manufacture-china/ [Accessed 11 Dec. 2019].

• Satariano, A. and Burrows, P. (2011).
Apple’s Supply-Chain Secret? Hoard Lasers. Bloomberg Businessweek.
• Smallbusiness.chron.com. (2019). The Three Stages of the International Product
Life Cycle Theory. [online]

Available at: https://smallbusiness.chron.com/three-stages-international-product-
life-cycle-theory-19364.html [Accessed 8 Dec. 2019].

• Smbp.uwaterloo.ca. (2019).
Apple: A Global Leader in Supply Chain Management – Social Media for Business
Performance. [online]

Available at: https://smbp.uwaterloo.ca/2015/06/apple-a-global-leader-in-supply-
chain-management/ [Accessed 20 Nov. 2019].

• sohail, O. (2019). iPhone 11 Sales Reportedly Picking up Steam, but iPhone 11
Pro Max Numbers Are Dropping. [online] Wccftech.

Available at: https://wccftech.com/apple-iphone-11-sales-increase-iphone-11-pro-
max-sales-dropping/ [Accessed 8 Dec. 2019].

• The Library of Economics and Liberty. (2019).
Comparative Advantage – Econlib. [online] Available at:

Comparative Advantage

[Accessed 11 Dec. 2019].

1. “It is a poor strategy for Apple to source components from multiple locations around the
world.” Evaluate this statement using three (3) factors. (15 marks).

2. “Using air freight to carry components to China is a very expensive and inefficient way for
Apple to operate.” State why you agree or disagree with this statement, by analysing three
(3) issues. (15 marks).

3. “Apple should concentrate on reshoring.” Discuss this statement by outlining three (3)
issues. (15 marks)

4. Based on the Case Study and other sources, discuss two (2) Customer Enablement
strategies used by Apple. (10 marks)

5. Based on the Case Study and other sources evaluate three (3) activities that Apple uses to
extract maximum value / benefits from its suppliers. (21 marks).

76 Marks