This year’s supply chain rankings from research and advisory firm Gartner have shown little change as far as the automotive sector is concerned but highlight digitalisation as one of the key trends accelerating companies’ capabilities.

BMW remains at 22nd in the list of the top 25 companies, which seeks to identify supply chain leaders and highlight best practices based on financial data and peer perceptions.

Schneider Electric, which provides automation and energy management for a range of industries including automotive, moved up one place to 17 on the list (after jumping 16 places from 34 last year).


Gartner's top 25 – click to enlarge

Gartner identified three key trends in supply chains it said were accelerating the leaders’ capability. One was supply chain digitalisation, something of a mantra for the automotive logistics sector at the moment and something BMW has already been recognised for by Gartner, who said the carmaker had made significant investments in supply chain visibility and digital manufacturing.

“The past few years have seen a massive shift in companies creating digital connections within and across their supply chain operations,” said Gartner in a statement alongside the release of the rankings. “Leading companies view digitalisation as an opportunity to not only provide agile support for existing products, but to reduce time to market for new ones.”

Combining Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, cloud computing and advanced analytics is certainly something BMW is embracing and, as reported last week, the carmaker has put new technology at the centre of its expansion of the Dadong joint venture plant with Brilliance in China.

The role that digitalisation, smart robotics and autonomous driving will play across BMW’s global supply chain was also central to discussions at last year’s BVL conference in Berlin, where Oliver Zipse said the company was aiming to move away from central steering towards “the self-steering of objects in the supply chain” which would rely on the use of data and communication.

Schneider Electric’s provision of energy management and automation, including at assembly plants, meanwhile, involves it looking at how technologies and devices are put together to improve process efficiency and providing data centre services to support this. It counts BMW among its customers, among other carmakers.

The other two major trends Gartner identified in its survey this year were adaptive organisation and the development of healthy ecosystems.

"Some of the more impressive supply chain organisations have created a modular supply chain service model that allows for variants of functional capabilities to be combined into "plug-and-play" segments, such as make-to-stock, configure-to-order or engineer-to-order manufacturing profiles," said Stan Aronow, research vice-president at Gartner. "This approach allows them to more quickly and flexibly support different business needs and outcomes, and speeds up activities such as M&A integration."