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Thought leadership

The goal of the Supply Chain Top 25 research initiative is to raise awareness of the supply chain discipline and how it impacts the business.

"Last year, we noted that companies were starting to invest in resources and assets again, reflecting a newly recovering economy," said Debra Hofman, managing vice president at Gartner. "This year, that trend continues even more strongly, with many companies investing for growth. The global economic recovery has been uneven and halting in some cases, but, on balance, the result has been expansionary for companies' bottom lines and outlooks."

Average annual revenue growth of the companies in the study increased 29 percent over the previous year. The average return on assets (ROA) and net profits improved by more than 50 percent in 2010, and then stabilized this year, signaling profitable growth.

Maintaining its record in the No. 1 slot was Apple delivering total solutions to its customers through tightly integrated design of hardware components, firmware, a proprietary operating system and an ecosystem of applications that run on top of that platform. Stellar financials, which further improved this year, supported by the highest voting scores point to its combination of operational and innovation excellence, a zealous focus on starting with the consumer experience and working back through the design of its supply network, and mastery in orchestrating its end-to-end value network.

Gartner analysts said Amazon is a great example of an "orchestrator" that goes beyond simply borrowing and adapting others' best practices and consistently defies conventional wisdom. McDonald's moved up five spots to No. 3 this year on strong financials and peer opinion votes. The ubiquitous restaurant chain has managed the balance between new product growth, and the resulting complexity in supply chain planning and execution.

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