Transportation & Logistics Analysis

The battle of Jena–Auerstedt and Apple’s Iphone

August 12 2019

The battle of Jena–Auerstedt is a great example of the ways in which Napoleon innovated in the strategy of war. Comparing this battle with the birth of the iPhone is a great way to describe strategic behavior and supply chain management that are astonishingly war like…

We’ll continue our series of daring parallels between today’s world and Napoleon’s reign… After “transport, Napoleonic wars, and the digital industry”, let’s move on to the iPhone and the battle of Jena–Auerstedt.

“One of the strongest military powers in Europe, which once offered us a shameful capitulation, is annihilated (…). Every province of the Prussian monarchy, all the way to the Oder, is under our control.”

With this official proclamation, the emperor of France learns about the superb outcome of the Prussian campaign. The overwhelming victory of October 14, 1806 in Jena, the one of Davout in Auerstaedt, just a few kilometers away, defeating Prussia. Its army went from 200,000 men to only 15,000 in less than a month. The Prussian monarchy, reigning for a century, is deeply shaken by the young French empire, because it underestimated its opponent and was too slow to fight back.


Respect of the opponent and execution speed

This is reminiscent of another war, although an economic one this time, happening almost two centuries later. Apple, which was barely surviving in the 90’s, became one of the most profitable and best valued companies when it revolutionized the mobile phone industry, rather than its core business of computers. The first iPhone, brought to market in 2007, was a vector of many innovations.

At the same time, Nokia, the leader of the mobile phone industry between 1998 and 2011, disappeared from the Millward Brown brand value Top 100 in 2012. Favoring a strategy of low-cost mobile phones, and by failing to buy into the smartphone trend, Nokia was forced to sell its mobile phone branch in 2014.

The idea of speed of execution was also very important in the Napoleonic system. When king Frederick William III of Prussia sends an ultimatum to France on October 1, 1806 (Napoleon will receive it on the 7th), asking the empire to remove its troops from the east bank of the Rhine before the 8th, Napoleon’s reaction is immediate and searing. Napoleon starts fighting with its Great Army, counting about 180,000 men, on the 8th. The speed at which the attack is carried out catches the Prussians by surprise.


Inventing a model rather than a product

Napoleon implemented the innovations we mentioned in a previous article:

- the divisional system used to scatter and regroup for armed battles

- the Gribeauval system (standardizing artillery) to speed up mobility, which was beautifully used in the widening of the Landgrafenberg road, where the enemy thought the terrain was unfit for artillery!

Because strike force and speed aren’t enough: The Emperor created a new model. The success of the iPhone also stems from a well-recognized capacity for innovation. Beyond the product, Apple invented a model revolving around two axes:

  • The intuitive touch screen, which brought about a much higher use rate for the Internet browsing feature
  • The creation of an App Store letting private companies distribute their mobile applications through a dedicated platform, meaning Apple gets a commission on all transactions

From a strategy standpoint, the App Store is extremely interesting because it makes Apple both a maker and distributor of digital solutions; it makes the iPhone more attractive to clients, without Apple having to pay to develop apps. On the contrary, it’s a source of cash! Asking private developers to work on the platform opens up the offer and speeds up app production.

In July 2009, one year after the App Store opened, there was over 85,000 applications available. Each day, several hundred new apps are available. On January 6, 2010, Apple announced it had over 3 billion iPhone app downloads. Early March 2010, over 150,000 applications, created by over 28,000 developers, were available for download on the App Store.


The strategic importance of transport

For Apple, supply chain management is key, because it is complex: with a worldwide sourcing (43 countries for the iPhone 8), the range of elements going into making and assembling the device is huge.

Since the late 90’s and the return of Steve Jobs at the head of Apple, the finished products are transported by airplanes. The company’s founder thereby undermines its competitors who use sea freight. The main advantage is the time it saves. With this method, Apple’s products get from the manufacturer to the consumer in just a few hours.

As for land distribution of the iPhone, Apple uses highly secure transport to prevent theft, considering the value of its merchandise, and the rules imposed by the insurance companies, who aren’t keen on ensuring goods beyond a value of €7 million.

Napoleon is no stranger to the high stakes of logistics. In Jena–Auerstedt, victory was conquered thanks to the artillery train.

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With more than 20 years of experience in the international supply chain, William works as a road transportation expert for Upply. Entrepreneur by nature, he has successively worked in operational and functional management among various industries, such as chemistry, automotive and building materials; alternately shipper and service provider.
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