@ Supply Chain Management


Apple supply chain sees smooth sailing ahead

Apple’s succession story has been in the news lately – or rather a story made necessary by Steve Job’s health situation. In this article on CNET : Apply supply chain sees smooth sailing ahead, the new head of Apple – Tim Cook, is reputedly a supply chain pro. In one sense, that’s a great thing but then I take a step back and ask myself : Is that what Apple really is?

I don’t think of Apple as a supply chain company with great products but a company with great products that has honed its supply chain quite well.

There is one quote from a Jeffries Analyst that speaks to the supply chain management voodoo at Apple:

"Even with the unfortunate events in Japan around the time of the iPad 2 release, Tim Cook was able to double or sometimes triple source component suppliers. To date, no competitor has been able to gain meaningful share in the tablet market; and, in our view, Cook’s leadership during the introduction was critical to this."

Perhaps, we will see Tim Cook elevate the next avatar of Steve Jobs from within Apple’s ranks that puts the key competitive advantage of Apple front and center. That would be “Giving people what they didn’t even know that they needed”.

Not easy but necessary.

Gnosis: Diagnosis vs Solgnosis

Diagnosis is a word that you and I are probably quite familiar with – the words come together from two words: “Dia” which means through/across and “gnosis” which means knowledge. In my daily work life, I depend on carrying out diagnosis as defined,

thorough analysis of facts or problems in order to gain understanding and aid future planning

However for me, diagnosis is implemented in a curious form that I often call dialogue-gnosis which simply means that a great deal of my knowledge and understanding is gained through dialogue with others. Now, nowhere in my education or work life was I ever taught how to carry out diagnosis or dialogue-gnosis; I just picked it up along the way. And I have no way of knowing whether my method of gnosis generation is any good (Except perhaps that it seems to work…sometimes?). And the critical aspect of dialogue-gnosis is that it is essentially about:

1) Asking the correct (or almost always somewhat-correct) and more importantly timely question

2) Taking the answers and filing it away as reportage to be verified independently

Some make dialogue-gnosis and diagnosis out into a process but my intuition suggests that it is not about the process but the processor – the processor is the key. While a well thought out process aids the processor (i.e. the investigator) and in that sense it is useful, an enthusiastic and curious processor is a must and there is a subset of people who are good at this. And there is a majority that are not. These processors actually want to engage in dialogue-gnosis over the appearance of diagnosis. The distinction is important because the majority that are not interested in dialogue-gnosis, they are interested in something else. Dialogue-gnosis is processor heavy and process-aided.

There is another class of gnosis operation which I’d like to call Solgnosis (Solution-Gnosis) which can be best described as bending reality to fit the existing solution. Solgnosis is like the phrase – “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail…” Bang away. Solngnosis is process heavy but processor lite, the process dwarves the processor and the processor is not expected to bring much to the process – “Just follow the instructions and that is all that is required.”

Solngnosis is essentially about using what has already been figured out repeatedly because it has worked before or is setup by those who have some success on their hands.

I am involved in a lot of modeling (Er – no, not the shirtless kind) – optimization modeling and there is an incredible degree of engineering that is required to get it right. Well, to be honest – somewhat right is more apt. Solgnosis is quite useless to me because even in the same industry, things can be radically different especially in the way that human beings interact with the model of their world. Some call it culture or whatever. In reality, it is the continuous spectrum between Dialogue-gnosis and Solngnosis that exists within the firm and where some of the key drivers (people) are along that spectrum.

Of course, to reduce the firm to this single dimension is rather foolish but over time the precipitate of repeated actions tends to dictate what kind of results can be expected from a firm. Or from a  nation. And from the world.

Take a look around you – what do you see? Do you see the imprints and effects of dialogue-gnosis or solution-gnosis?

About me

I am Chris Jacob Abraham and I live, work and blog from Newburgh, New York. I work for IBM as a Senior consultant in the Fab PowerOps group that works around the issue of detailed Fab (semiconductor fab) level scheduling on a continual basis. My erstwhile company ILOG was recently acquired by IBM and I've joined the Industry Solutions Group there.

@ SCM Clustrmap

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August 2011