While the world armchair analyzes the new iPhone 5s and 5c, Apple is busy preparing for the phone’s inevitable launch. Often overlooked, these supply chain folks are responsible for producing and then shipping Apple’s new phones to their target locations in a timely manner. It’s a complex operation that was managed by Tim Cook before he took over as CEO of Apple.
According to Bloomberg, the planning for an iPhone launch starts months before the phones actually go on sale. Teams from sales, marketing, finance and others come together to estimate how many phones the company expects to sell. Once a number is selected, phone production is ramped up at factories like those run by Foxconn. One they are made, the phones allegedly stay in China while the software team tweaks the OS. It’s only when the software is finalized that the phones start to move towards their destinations.
The movement of an iPhone from factory to storefront starts in China, where pallets of iPhones are moved by trucks from the factory to transport planes. The pallets are then flown to distribution centers worldwide, where they are held until the final product is unveiled. Not surprisingly, a security detail accompanies each leg of the transport.
Shipping companies then take over and move the phones from these distribution centers to their target market. Phones headed to the US are shipped by FedEX via Boeing 777s, claims Satish Jindel, president of SJ Consulting Group. The phones travel from China to Fedex’s Memphis, Tennessee hub in a non-stop flight. The logistics of how many phones are shipped and where they go is a closely guarded secret.
Once the phones are available for purchase, sales data is tracked and adjustments are made to both production and shipping to ensure inventory is sent to where it is needed the most.