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Organization of the non-obvious

Organization of the non-obvious

A friend over at Drivehard.net explains why Marcus Aurelius got it right:

“Because of its volume—and its occasional ruthlessness—Apple gets big discounts on parts, manufacturing capacity, and air freight.”
- Adam Satariano and Peter Burrows at Bloomberg

This quote from a recent Bloomberg article sheds light on one of the less exciting and therefore underrated aspects of any business. I doubt many 7 year olds are overheard saying “Mommy, I want to be in operations logistics when I grow up”. But perhaps they are the unsung heros. I’ve seen a few Apple Operations wizards sharpening their Excel spreadsheets, preparing for war. Their single-minded devotion to what what the rest of us discount as merely “necessary”, reminds me of one of my all time favorite quotes:

“The secret of any victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."
- Marcus Aurelius

Everyone knows launching a product first can have a huge impact on sales, and ultimately on the brand’s perception as either an innovator or a plagiarizer. But the article points out another interesting byproduct of a religious focus on streamlined operations, which can domino into another competitive advantage. If you’re operating within a smaller product ecosystem were suppliers may be limited, or if you’re talking about the astronomical volume of production that Apple requires, it seems you can actually put a choke hold on competitors who need the same suppliers:

“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.”

Some might see this as unfair. I say in the race of getting there first in technology, to the victors go the spoils. I think Marcus would agree.