The root beer distribution game (also known as the root beer game) is an experiential learning business simulation game created by a group of professors at MIT Sloan School of Management in early 1960s to demonstrate a number of key principles of supply chain management. The game is played by teams of at least four players, often in heated competition, and takes at least one hour to complete. A debriefing session of roughly equivalent length typically follows to review the results of each team and discuss the lessons involved.
The purpose of the game is to understand the distribution side dynamics of a multi-echelon supply chain used to distribute a single item, in this case, cases of root beer.
The object of the game is to meet customer demand for cases of root root beer through the distribution side of a multi-stage supply chain with minimal expenditure on back orders and inventory. There are four stages, manufacturer, distributor, supplier, retailer, with a two-week communication gap of orders toward the upstream and a one-week supply chain delay of product towards the downstream. There is a 0.5 point cost for holding excess inventory and a 1.0 point cost for any backlog (old backlog + orders - current inventory). Players cannot see anything other than what is communicated to them through orders The retailer receives orders through a preset customer demand, and the manufacturer places an order which, in turn, becomes product in three weeks.
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