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Causes of the bullwhip effect

25 February, 2015 - 16:58

The bullwhip effect is caused by demand forecast updating, order batching, price fluctuation, and rationing and gaming.

  • Demand forecast updating is done individually by all members of a supply chain. Each member updates its own demand forecast based on orders received from its “downstream” customer. The more members in the chain, the less these forecast updates reflect actual end-customer demand.
  • Order batching occurs when each member takes order quantities it receives from its downstream customer and rounds up or down to suit production constraints such as equipment setup times or truckload quantities. The more members who conduct such rounding of order quantities, the more distortion occurs of the original quantities that were demanded.
  • Price fluctuations due to inflationary factors, quantity discounts, or sales tend to encourage customers to buy larger quantities than they require. This behavior tends to add variability to quantities ordered and uncertainty to forecasts.
  • Rationing and gaming is when a seller attempts to limit order quantities by delivering only a percentage of the order placed by the buyer. The buyer, knowing that the seller is delivering only a fraction of the order placed, attempts to “game” the system by making an upward adjustment to the order quantity. Rationing and gaming create distortions in the ordering information that is being received by the supply chain.