The development of Digitized Simulation in Supply Chain Education

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As a supply chain trainer, we have learnt that sometimes,  the  best way to get the  message across is through a  simulated classroom exercise. Imagine trying to  teach negotiation styles, skills and strategies with  a hypothetical  case whereby  a high powered negotiation between a procurement manager with  economies of scale leverage, is  up against a supplier who enjoys a monopolistic advantage. For me, a  well planned simulated game play gets the job done.

Simulated games have forever been part of supply chain learning in the classroom. One  very popular simulated activity, the Beer distribution game,  is capable of teaching learners a host of supply chain concepts, including  the Bullwhip effect  and  the implications surrounding supply and demand . But  games weren’t  always done manually. Over the years, we have lived to see many games become digitized, even before the Artificial Intelligence phenomenon. In the past , Digital Game Based Learning (DGBL) had been viewed as a  potential tool to develop supply chain skills, even though these early   attempts  were not the best in simulating a  real world supply chain environment ( Corsi, Boyson, Verbraeck,  Van Housten, Han and MacDonald, 2006). Attempts were also made by the  Harvard Business School, where they developed an interactive  Global Supply Chain Management Simulation to provide supply chain practitioners with a  learning environment that could mimic the complexities of a supply chain  (Harvard Business School, 2004). Since then,  there has been  considerable improvements  in the supply chain gaming business , with new ones emerging every year.

The  company Sterling Simulation, in collaboration with Supply Chain Insights have successfully  developed a newly designed digitized version of the  Beer Game that encompasses  an entire supply chain network (Bowman, 2015) . Cranfield University Supply chain module in its Management MSc program has also been able to successfully apply a  real world , 24/7 Supply Chain Simulation game,  allowing students to make strategic decisions from the scenarios and outcomes generated through game play  (Cranfield School of Management, 2019).  Interestingly,  real time simulated games with a continuous, 24/7  could not have been  achieved ten years ago  by the Harvard Business School simulated model . Now this  technology is finally with us, bringing the student closer to a complex real world environment.

As digitized gaming continue to be  an invaluable tool in supply chain education , its   future remain uncertain.  Artificial Intelligence  applications are now set to  be the strategic decision maker for  the supply chain professional of the future,  through its  predictive analytics and machine learning abilities (Advance Business Media, 2018 ; Cassel, 2018). By this time, games  might shift to emotional intelligence simulations, tailored towards the needs of   the supply chain professional.

Written by

Mr. Paul Gulston, Westford University College


References :

Advance Business Media (2018), ‘Artificial intelligence technology is redefining the manufacturing workforce’ (2018). Manufacturing Business Technology, Retrieved from

Bowman, (2015), ‘Game On: A New Tool for Supply-Chain Simulation’, SUPPLYCHAINBRAIN , Available at: : Accessed : June 9th 2019

Cassel (2018) AI Starts Taking White Collar Jobs, THENEWSTACK  Available at  :  Accessed : June 9th 2019

Corsi, Boyson, Verbraeck,  Van Housten, Han and MacDonald,  (2006) ‘The Real- Time Global Supply Chain Game: New Educational Tool for Developing Supply Chain Management Professionals’ Transportation Journal; Summer 2006; 45, 3; ABI/INFORM Global

Cranfield School of Management, (2019),Supply Chain Simulation game – Cranfield School of Management. Available at : Accessed : June 9th 2019

Harvard Business School (2004),‘The Real- Time Global Supply Chain Game: New Educational Tool for Developing Supply Chain Management Professionals’ Transportation Journal; Summer 2006; 45, 3; ABI/INFORM Global

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