Beer Game

Topics: Supply chain management, Supply chain, Inventory Pages: 28 (8573 words) Published: September 18, 2013
21th Bled eConference eCollaboration: Overcoming Boundaries Through Multi-Channel Interaction June 15 - 18, 2008; Bled, Slovenia

The Beergame in business-to-business eCommerce courses – a teaching report Kai Riemer The University of Münster, Germany wikari@wi.uni-muenster.de Abstract In this teaching report I demonstrate the use of the so-called beer distribution game in teaching business-to-business eCommerce courses. The beergame is a role-play supply chain simulation game that lets students experience typical coordination problems of (traditional) supply chains without information sharing and collaboration. With this paper I want to show how the beergame can be used to provide students with a more profound understanding of the reasons why eCommerce technologies are used in contemporary supply chains; I also want to share my experiences and beergame materials with other information systems scholars in the field. To this end, I will introduce the beergame, demonstrate its use in a classroom setting, and show how I embed the game in a typical B2B eCommerce syllabus. Keywords: Teaching, eCommerce, Beergame, Supply Chain, Bullwhip effect

1 Introduction
This is not a research paper. Rather, it is a teaching report in which I describe the use of the so called beer distribution game (or beergame) – a logistics and supply chain simulation game – in teaching business-to-business eCommerce. The aim of the paper is twofold: First, I want to demonstrate how the beergame can be used to provide students with a more profound understanding of the reasons why eCommerce technologies are used in contemporary supply chains to exchange information and to facilitate collaboration. Second, I want to share both my experiences and my materials for using the beergame in eCommerce courses with the IS community, i.e. those scholars that teach (business-to-business) eCommerce or supply chain management courses. The beergame is a role-play simulation game in which students enact a four stage supply chain. The task of this supply chain is to produce and deliver units of beer: the factory produces and the other three stages deliver the beer units until it reaches the customer at the downstream end of the chain. In doing so, the aim of the players is rather simple: each of the four groups has to fulfil the incoming orders of beer by placing orders with the next upstream party. Since communication and collaboration is not allowed between supply chain stages, the players invaria588

bly create the so called bullwhip effect. With ‘bullwhip’ we refer to the effect that the amount of periodical orders amplifies upstream in the supply chain towards the production end, thus causing a range of operational problems. The bullwhip effect is a well-known phenomenon and a prominent symptom of coordination problems in supply chains. In using the beergame to create the bullwhip effect students experience first hand, not only the problems of lack of information sharing and collaboration in supply chains, but also the main causes for the creation of the bullwhip effect. Henceforth, in introducing eCommerce measures in the later sessions of the course, students can relate to these topics through their own experiences. The paper ties in with a recent discussion on the ISWorld eMail list on “how to make relevant IS teaching for students with little or no practical experience”. In teaching information systems (IS) and specifically B2B eCommerce we frequently experience problems of making relevant those topics for students. The challenge is to get them to appreciate the relevance of IS and also to provide them, not only with a superficial knowledge of the topics, but with a more profound understanding of the reasons why eCommerce technologies are used in practice. Against this backdrop I want to show how the beergame can help demonstrating the role and need of eCommerce technologies in a topic area in which the students not only lack practical knowledge (i.e. with...

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