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Information Distortion in a Supply Chain: The Bullwhip Effect

Hau L. Lee, V. Padmanabhan and Seungjin Whang
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Hau L. Lee: Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305
V. Padmanabhan: Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305
Seungjin Whang: Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305

Management Science, 1997, vol. 43, issue 4, 546-558

Abstract: Consider a series of companies in a supply chain, each of whom orders from its immediate upstream member. In this setting, inbound orders from a downstream member serve as a valuable informational input to upstream production and inventory decisions. This paper claims that the information transferred in the form of "orders" tends to be distorted and can misguide upstream members in their inventory and production decisions. In particular, the variance of orders may be larger than that of sales, and the distortion tends to increase as one moves upstream---a phenomenon termed "bullwhip effect." This paper analyzes four sources of the bullwhip effect: demand signal processing, rationing game, order batching, and price variations. Actions that can be taken to mitigate the detrimental impact of this distortion are also discussed.

Keywords: supply chain management; information distortion; information integration; production and inventory management (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 1997
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