AMR Research recently released the top 25 supply chain retailer and manufacturers in the world with technology companies grabbing the top two slots.

The winner was Nokia. AMR describes the Finnish-based telecoms firm as being a pioneer in value chain strategies. It is also a leader in collaborative product development.

In second place comes Apple – maker of the iconic I-pod and trendy looking PCs, which so often grace the desks of media types.

However, there’s much more to Apple than just being a leading fashionista and maker of cool must-have gadgets. AMR describes the firm as being unparalleled in demand-shaping capability. “It lets its supply chain record spectacular results without sweating costs like everyone else,” says AMR in its 2007 Supply Chain Top 25 report. In third and fourth places came consumer good giant, Proctor & Gamble, followed by IT behemoth, IBM.

Not unsurprisingly comes Toyota in fifth place, which recently unseated General Motors as the world’s number one car manufacturer. The Japanese firm, renown for its cutting edge manufacturing, engineering and design skills, knows a thing or two about supply chains as well, says AMR.

The research group found that Toyota has for once and for all put to bed Henry Ford’s model T philosophy “of any colour you want as long as it is black”. Indeed, the Japanese car manufacturer is a pioneer in lean manufacturing and that particular manufacturing philosophy has been passed down through the supply chain.

After Nokia, the next top European supply chain leader was none other than UK retailer, Tesco, which came eighth overall in the list. “Tesco innovates aggressively in store operations and beyond, positioning itself as a global power in the consolidating grocery sector,” says AMR.

Indeed, Tesco’s hard pressed UK competitors would probably agree. It is thought the firm takes £1 out every £7 spent on Britain’s high street and that domination is reckoned to be increasing.

And the common theme: “The importance of leadership is hard to overstate,” says Kevin O ‘Marah, senior vice-president of research at AMR Research. “Companies in this year’s Supply Chain Top 25 are able to respond quickly and efficiently to opportunities arising from market or customer demand. It is not simply a matter of cutting costs.”

Interestingly, the supply chain top 25 as a group, outperformed the Dow Jones and Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Index. No doubt further proof for both managements and shareholders of the importance of optimising supply chains.