Production Smoothing and the Bullwhip Effect
The bullwhip effect and production smoothing appear antithetical because their empirical tests oppose one another: production variability exceeding sales variability for bullwhip, and vice versa for smoothing. But this is a false dichotomy. We distinguish between the phenomena with a new production smoothing measure, which estimates how much more variable production would be absent production volatility costs. We apply our metric to an automotive manufacturing sample comprising 162 car models and find 75% smooth production by at least 5%, despite 99% exhibiting the bullwhip effect. Indeed, we estimate both a strong bullwhip (on average, production is 220% as variable as sales) and robust smoothing (on average, production would be 22% more variable without deliberate stabilization). We find firms smooth both production variability and production uncertainty. We measure production smoothing with a structural econometric production scheduling model, based on the Generalized Order-Up-To Policy.
Bray, Robert and Haim Mendelson. 2015. Production Smoothing and the Bullwhip Effect. Manufacturing & Service Operations Management (M&SOM). 17(2): 208-220.