Apple is so paranoid about leaks from its suppliers, it once shipped products in unmarked tomato boxes so outsiders wouldn’t know there were Apple products in them.
That’s just one of the crazy conditions Apple imposed on its suppliers, according to BusinessWeek’s Peter Burrows and Adam Satariano.
- It puts electronic monitors in boxes of parts as they travel between plants in China to make sure they don’t get leaked.
- The finished iPad 2 shipped in unmarked boxes that were monitored at every handoff point by Apple employees.
- Many suppliers are required to have two weeks’ worth of inventory within a mile of Apple’s Chinese assembly plants.
- Apple offered one parts manufacturer an up-front payment of $1 billion to commit most of a factory to Apple products. The manufacturer said no because it didn’t want to be too dependent.
- Designer Jony Ive wanted the MacBook Air to have a green light appear to be shining THROUGH the case when the camera was on. The only way to do this was by poking tiny holes in the aluminium with a laser — so Apple found a supplier for the laser machines and convinced it to sign an exclusive. It’s since bought hundreds of the machines at about $250,000 apiece.
Apple can get away with all this because it buys parts in huge volumes.
It also helps that Apple has more than $80 billion in cash, and isn’t afraid to use it to improve its supply chain efficiency — next year, the company plans to double its spending on supply chain to $7.1 billion.
Apple’s hyper-efficient supply chain was largely oveseen by Tim Cook, who won enough trust from Steve Jobs to win the CEO role when Jobs stepped down.