Keeping it under your hat

15. April 2016

Date: 14-04-2016
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter

An old management idea gets a new lease of life

APPLE and Tesla are two of the world’s most talked-about companies. They are also two of the most vertically integrated. Apple not only writes much of its own software, but designs its own chips and runs its own shops. Tesla makes 80% of its electric cars and sells them directly to its customers. It is also constructing a network of service stations and building the world’s biggest battery factory, in the Nevada desert.

A century ago this sort of vertical integration was the rule: companies integrated “backwards”, by buying sources for raw materials and suppliers, and “forwards”, by buying distributors. Standard Oil owned delivery wagons and refineries in addition to oil wells. Carnegie owned iron-ore deposits and rail carriages as well as blast furnaces. In his 1926 book “Today and Tomorrow” Henry Ford wrote that vertical integration was the key to his success: “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” He claimed he could extract ore in Minnesota from his own mines, ship it to his River Rouge facility in Detroit and have it sitting as a Model T in a Chicago driveway—in no more than 84 hours. Read the rest of this entry »