The Falafel Bullwhip

My friend, Kurt, who blogs here at WordPress in his Zephyr 98, has a cute essay on a sandwich. In it, the store where he shops had a shortage of falafel, and so couldn’t make his favorite sandwich. This went on for weeks. Then, suddenly, they had falafel again — tons and tons of falafel. The resulting sandwich was…mmm…Rubenesque, bordering on Dionysian. But the curvacious sandwich isn’t what we are on about in this essay. It’s the falafel, and the oversupply thereof.

You see, Kurt’s sandwich shop appears to be the victim of a common phenomenon in the supply chain world, known as ‘the bullwhip effect’. When a multi-stage supply system has delays built into it, then pent up demand can result in a sudden oversupply, and your inventory flails around like a bullwhip. The best example is in the ‘Beer Game’ AKA the ‘Beer Distribution Game’, for those who don’t want their motives misunderstood. Here’s the wiki on it:

and there’s resources that will let you play online. Go ahead. Play it. I’ll wait.

If you check my Summer Reading entry of a month ago, you will find Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline (1990). He made the Beer Game popular, and tied it to Systems Dynamics. One of the interesting findings he made, from years of using the game, is that the bullwhip effect can occur even when you know what’s going on and try to fight it.

I strongly reccomend the book, Kurt’s blog, and fat falafel sandwiches.


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One Response to “The Falafel Bullwhip”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    The title of your next book: The Falafel Bullwhip
    Now, this post reads like Alton Brown if he wrote on economics and systems science.

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