Jabil Circuit Inc.: Pioneering Supply Chain Solutions for a Complex World

Jabil Circuit Inc. tackles complex supply chains by offering its customers better solutions than yesterday.

By Janice Hoppe

As the third-largest manufacturing services provider in the world, Jabil Circuit Inc. works to continuously improve its network optimization tools and provide its customers with the right answers for their custom supply chain challenges. “Technology is always evolving and today we have an answer for custom supply chains, but it’s not good enough,” Global Supply Chain Vice President Joe McBeth says. “We want to keep making it better and better. Supply chain evolution, speed and the ability to keep up with change are really the new frontiers.”

James Golden and Bill Morean founded Jabil in 1966, merging their first names to create the company name. Jabil’s first major customer was in the auto industry. Jabil served as the manufacturing partner for multiple automotive customers, including Johnson Controls, Webasto and General Motors Co.

In subsequent years, the company accelerated its growth by attracting and capitalizing on the emergence of multiple industries. Jabil was a major provider of PCs, communications and Internet infrastructure in the 1990s. Today, Jabil describes itself as a manufacturing and supply chain solutions company, offering customers a menu of end-to-end capabilities starting with product design through configuration, direct fulfillment and repair.

Headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., Jabil operates 102 locations in 28 countries, serving the healthcare, packaging, mobility and wearables, aerospace, enterprise, digital home, point-of-sale, automotive, printing and energy industries. The company has more than 180,000 employees, 250 of the top brands as customers and nearly $18 billion in revenue. Jabil monitors and manages, in real-time, more than seven million parts and 17,000 supply chain partners globally.

“In terms of the supply chain, much of what we do is consistent, but the way we do it is changing and the things that are important are not stagnant,” McBeth says. “We grew up as an electronics company, but are a full solutions company today. Most tool sets that have been built by the company originally were related to managing a supply base heavily bent on electronics. Managing those supply nodes that are custom is a lot more complex. Understanding geographic cost and technical migration are just a couple of the differences in custom supply chains.”

Complex Solutions

Jabilinfobox copyMcBeth is focused on demand-driven supply chains as well as statistical modeling for optimal use of inventory, cash and profit realization. Customers’ demands for innovation, rapid response and need for actionable data put increased pressure on the supply chain and resulted in Jabil bringing end-to-end visibility in every aspect of the supply chain.

Jabil’s proprietary advanced data analytics platform, inControl, is an integral part of its Intelligent Digital Supply Chain (IDSC) solutions. Combined, these solutions enable companies that were once monolithic and focused on internal efficiencies to now converge, collaborate and create networked business and information models with a common set of business goals.

inControl continues to receive positive feedback from Jabil’s customers who want full solutions for their business. For example, customers want to know how to choose the right locations and capabilities as they continue to acquire new businesses, model where it is best to consolidate and define what risk that puts in the supply chain. “It’s not very easy if you have 60 factories with the corresponding supply chain nodes and you are trying to figure out the best answer,” McBeth says. “We can help our customers do that.”

Jabil launched inControl three years ago after recognizing supply chains were getting incredibly complex. Overlapping supply chains have hierarchies that can impact who and how customers are supported. Rather than be victims of this complexity, Jabil recognizes the overlapping nodes and risks associated with them and has changed how they plan for and avoid significant supply chain events.

The focus is on the whole product and the market Jabil’s customers are serving. “We can bring a lot more value to our customers with full product solutions not just independent manufacturing, logistics or design solutions,” McBeth explains. “All these capabilities we combine into the solution.”

Continuous Optimization

“We have always had strong tool sets; those are required for what we do for our customers as we manage their complex supply chains,” McBeth says. “These tool sets have migrated from independent data sets to integrated analytical tools that are marrying data from many different internal and external databases. That allows us to see the interplay of many variables. It is not about one answer, but the ability to manipulate variables and do statistical modeling to create optionality in our solutions.”

McBeth has been with Jabil for 23 years and says complex supply chains are always on the verge of spinning out of control, but complex is what the company wants. “We want the most complex business and the problems that are the hardest to solve,” he says. “We migrate to that because it forces us to get better. I want to be incredibly differentiated and in a year-and-a-half from now I want to still be dissatisfied with something because being good is the enemy.”

Jabil continues to optimize inControl and IDCS to provide its customers with better answers tomorrow. “We have an answer today for custom supply chains and are always advancing our tools,” McBeth says. “We are on the verge of something incredible that will take six months to a year to complete that will stretch us again way out in front. We have a strong answer for complexity today, but are not satisfied.”

Supply chain data is processed in pieces, so to speak, and Jabil has yet to see a company, including itself, connect all the dots to manage risk. “That’s where we are at,” McBeth says. “We have not seen anyone, including ourselves, have it completely complete. That will be our differentiator in the next year and something very significant.”

Moving forward, Jabil plans to continue investing in the digital space to remain a leader. “One thing we are seeing in the industry is that you can get really excited about the digital economy and waste a lot of money,” McBeth says. “It is clear there are winners and losers already being created in the digital economy.

“What is consistent for winners is that they have strong leadership and solve problems with a view from their customers using digital answers. For many of the losers, they invest in digital answers without a strong enough vision of what they are solving. Our focus is to enable solutions faster and better by integrating many of our capabilities inside a digital answer. It starts with solving problems and usually you find more opportunities along the way,” he adds. “Big data and digitization of our solutions are critical to our future but it is equally as important to maintain our culture and attract the best talent to stay on the leading-edge.”