The Impact of Bullwhip on Supply Chains: Performance Pathways, Control Mechanisms, and Managerial Levers

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Journal of Operations Management






Even though few empirical studies have tried to actually explicate the relationship between the bullwhip effect and performance of the supplier firm, there exists a common perception for over 30 years among both practitioners and academics that the bullwhip effect naturally results in decreased firm profitability. Anecdotal evidence further suggests that this decline in profitability arises from a decline in operational performance. However, the results of our study, which empirically examines the bullwhip effect across supply chain partners through an analysis of 383 actual customer base-supplier dyads, challenge this commonly held position by suggesting that while traditional bullwhip often yields reduced ROA, it ultimately has no relationship with the firm's operating margin. Additionally, our results also call into question whether or not production coordination between customers and suppliers can minimize the need for inventory and capacity buffers, which are the two commonly utilized methods for battling the bullwhip effect. Thus the relationship between bullwhip and firm performance is far more nuanced and complicated than previously believed. We also show how the managerial bullwhip levers of coordinating production across supply chain partners, or deploying inventory and capacity buffer control mechanisms, can help maximize a firm's performance along different dimensions.