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How does the Beer Distribution Game help us to understand Humanitarian Supply Chains

Duddy, David; Weaver, Miles; Stantchev, Damien



This research develops a model similar to that used in Forrester’s ‘Beer Distribution Game’ to understand where uncertainty is generated in humanitarian supply chains. It examines the extent to which the Bullwhip Effect impacts upon a humanitarian supply chain and considers forecasting within the humanitarian supply chain in both Push and Pull inventory environments to determine what can be done to mitigate against this effect.

Research Approach
By taking an inductive approach, this research seeks to use exploratory methods to find the internal logic of humanitarian supply chain relationships and actions by establishing the effects of variations in material flow under Push and Pull inventory strategies. Existing academic literature, evaluation reports from past humanitarian logistic operations and observations by the researcher have been used to inform the development of the model in terms of current practice, processes and procedures and likelihood of variations in commodity demand.

Findings and Originality
This research forms part of a recently started PhD project and establishes the complexity of the humanitarian supply chain in terms of ownership, control and information flow, and shows that the ‘customer’ in a commercial supply chain is quite different from that in a humanitarian supply chain. The Beer Game is a widely-understood example which illustrates demand and forecasting fluctuations within a commercial supply chain. By using it as a start point, the flow of materials and information is mapped through a simple commercial supply chain and then through a typical humanitarian supply chain, in order to compare and contrast the natural flow of material and the effect of deliberate variations in that flow. The review of current literature reveals that such a mapping exercise has yet to be conducted and therefore, there is currently no model capturing the impact of the Bullwhip Effect on humanitarian supply chains.

Research Impact
This research provides a theoretical concept base from which governance and humanitarian supply chain management issues can be examined. It allows ‘preunderstanding’ of humanitarian supply chain challenges to be developed into understanding through active research engagement with practitioners, particularly in terms of information flow and performance measurement.

Practical Impact
This research will produce a model which can be used by humanitarian practitioners to design or evaluate their supply chains. It will guide strategic managers of humanitarian supply chains in drawing attention to aspects of the supply chain which must be considered before switching between Push and Pull inventory strategies, thereby ensuring supply chain effectiveness, efficiency and integrity. The model can also be used as a tool for teaching students new to the field of humanitarian logistics and will contribute to the professional development of current practitioners.


Duddy, D., Weaver, M., & Stantchev, D. (2017, September). How does the Beer Distribution Game help us to understand Humanitarian Supply Chains. Paper presented at Annual Conference of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Logistics Research Network (LRN)

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Annual Conference of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Logistics Research Network (LRN)
Start Date Sep 6, 2017
End Date Sep 8, 2017
Acceptance Date May 11, 2017
Deposit Date May 11, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jul 3, 2017
Keywords Humanitarian, Supply Chain, Bullwhip Effect, Material and Information Flow,
Public URL


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