ROLE PLAY-BASED SUPPLY CHAIN OPERATION SIMULATOR
A supply chain contains geographically dispersed facilities where raw materials, intermediate products, or finished products are acquired, transformed, stored, or sold as well as transportation links that connect facilities along which products flow. That is, a supply chain consists of various stages that are directly or indirectly involved in fulfilling a customer request. The goal of the supply chain is add value to the products as they pass through its supply chain, and transport them to geographically dispersed markets in the correct quantities, with correct specifications, at the correct time, and at a competitive cost. Information sharing among the entities/stages in a supply chain is essential for their better coordination and for minimizing the system wide cost.
Our role play-based simulators are computerized and web-based role play packages for supply chain operation simulation. The role play gives an insight on the dynamics of the with four stages as shown in Figure 1. The four stages (entities) are managed by four distribution manager, the wholesale manager and the retail manager.
These simulators create business decision making situations where appropriate decision can be made. So it is possible to analyse the effect of decisions made by the player (business manager of the entity). It is possible to do the business for several weeks in the simulator and it shows the performance of the business operation in terms of costs. Since all the players in a business operation simulation have the same business situation, the costs considered are cost related to carrying more units of an item and cost of shortages of the item. That is, in the management of business units, a manager sometimes maintains more units in stock than currently required and sometimes there may not be sufficient quantity in stock to meet demand. So the cost of these situations will be shown in the simulator.
These simulators are also a useful package for imparting concepts of supply chain management, bullwhip effect in supply chain, importance of information sharing in supply chain management, importance of better coordination between organisations/members of supply chain, effect of lead time in supply chain, etc. to the participants/players. The game can also be used to provide participants a more profound understanding of the reasons why collaboration technologies are used in contemporary supply chains to exchange information and to facilitate collaboration.
These simulators allow a competitive (game) type of play situations. Competitive type of play allows the players to be more attentive and they are able to capture a lot of insight on the business management situations. That is, a competitive type learning environment can be created using the simulators. In these simulators, usually, a team means four members in which one act as a factory manager, another one as a distribution manager, another one as a wholesale manager and the next one as a retail manager. All teams are trying to meet the customer demands through their business operation. All teams are facing the same uncertain customer demand. A team that meet the customer demand with minimum cost is the best team or the best supply chain.
We have three types of supply chain operation simulator and they are:
For studies to conduct on serial supply chain behaviour a sophisticated simulation package is always looked-for and the Supply Chain Role Play Game (SCRPG) is one such package. This is intended to work as a simulator to demonstrate a number of key principles of supply chain management, with sufficient flexibility to incorporate different information sharing conditions and costs. The simulator lets the users (players) to place themselves in the role of supply chain managers at different levels of the supply chain. Hence creating a virtual world where decision making is made possible for managing the business entities in the supply chain and the supply chain itself. Therefore, it can act as a simulator for business decision in the operation of business units of the supply chain. This simulator can be set under 10 information sharing scenarios. So it can be used for understanding the usefulness of different information sharing that can be practiced in business management between different business units.
The ‘Supply Chain Role Play Game’ offers an instructor to set a game/scenario by providing necessary parameters and the users (players) will be able to undertake the roles of different tiers of a serial supply chain; namely Retailer, Wholesaler, Distributor and Factory.
The objective of such a simulator is to provide a valuable learning experience about supply chain management in a gaming manner. The game/scenario created using the simulator is not designed with any specific industry in mind. Rather, it is designed to elicit a certain behaviour that is characteristic of most supply chains.
In SCRPG, admin set the game and then allows the participants to play the game. It is assumed that the participant has received sufficient training in using the interfaces of the SCRPG package. Usually, training is provided before starting the supply chain operation, on interpreting the user interface in the computer and progressing further in the operation of supply chain. That is, initially a demo is required for understanding the information provided in the computer terminal. This training can be avoided to a certain extent, if a package that helps in giving the information on supply chain operation simulation is available. The SCRPG Tutor takes the role of trainer. This software package intended to provide training in using the simulator without a tutor (mentor). Four roles (namely Retailer, Wholesaler, Distributor and Factory) have to be assigned to different participants to play the game. The tutor package incorporated in the simulator enables the play with one physical player and other roles are taken up/played by the computer. In the roles played by computer the decision is taken based on an inventory policy. The package allows in choosing a role by the login person and the remaining roles are played by the computer.
Vendor-Managed Inventory (VMI)-based supply chain role play game is a simulator of serial supply chain with the concept of vendor managed inventory imbibed into it. It helps the user to understand the real life situation of VMI in a supply chain. The VMI concept is used between retailer and wholesaler. The inventory of retailer is managed by the wholesaler. That is, the retailer and wholesaler collaborate each other. If the retailer specifies the maximum shelf space for stocking goods and the wholesaler manages inventory of retailer, then three players are required for managing the four stages of the supply chain operation simulation as sales operation of retailer is automated. This role play game provides the usefulness of collaboration and information sharing.
This simulator provides the administrator with the option of selecting number of physical players in a team. It can be three or four, based upon the settings done by the administrator. But, the echelons (stages) of the supply chain remain the same in both the cases, i.e., Retailer, Wholesaler, Distributor and Factory. In the case of three player’s, the role of retailer is automated whereas other-roles are played (or the decision making is done) by physical players/users.
It can be used as an efficient tool for experiencing the effect of ‘Bullwhip effect’ in collaboration compared to a non-collaborative supply chain. This simulator is a tool which can also be used by academicians and entrepreneurs for their experimental and analytical purposes.