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The Bullwhip Effect: How Cloud Manufacturing Can Help

What is the Bullwhip Effect?

What is the Bullwhip Effect

The bullwhip effect is a phenomenon where ever-growing fluctuations across the entire supply chain create unforeseen and unwanted results. Demand signal amplification worsens and increases as order cues move through the supply chain. This can happen when companies hedging against potential future shortages change buying patterns to cover both short-term and longer-term needs, or even when changing demand factors are misread.

Unfortunately, such demand signals create more problems. OEMs may place two or three component orders with different suppliers hoping at least one will pan out. But once a single order has confirmation, the other orders–which never really existed– often get canceled. Manufacturers who ramped up production according to needs can get left holding excess supply. If too many companies implement this strategy at once, the resulting price destabilizing effect can be disastrous. How can you protect yourself against the bullwhip effect?  Read on.

Ghost Orders and the Illusion of Scarcity

Forward buying for future needs can create future problems. While companies build stockpiles based on anticipated demand,  consider what happens if that demand never materializes. The Q1 2022 electronics market was a good example of component demand driven by future as much as current need, driving some purchasing agents to buy necessary components whenever they could be located. But stockpiles could only accumulate if OEMs paid premium shipping costs to deliver parts to warehousing space, also at an all-time high. Over time, these higher costs can impact profitability.

In Q4, 2021 MacroFab noted a 30% increase in backlog order cancellations at component manufacturers. Such ‘ghost orders’ can push out lead times at the manufacturer while deprioritizing real orders, creating the illusion of scarcity and further snarling the supply chain. But when ghost orders are canceled, manufacturers can be left holding too many parts.  This can create a resulting component glut that has a real effect on prices. 

At the same time, OEMs may be left with a stockpile of unused components purchased at higher than the current market price, stuck in expensive warehousing space. Yet selling off these assets may depress prices further. It’s a difficult situation with no easy or short-term fix.

What is the Bullwhip Effect

While every company  forecasts for inventory control and production scheduling, such forecasting may be based on order history rather than current data. Further, in times of scarcity forecasts may reflect demand plus extra safety inventory. But this can be dangerous when using traditional supply chain information where visibility can be a problem and decisions are based upon out-of-date or irrelevant datasets. Long lead times for some components can further exacerbate variability and cause more supply swings.

How to Avoid the Bullwhip Effect

  CHECKPOINT

Supply chains must be both informed and agile to accurately forecast demand, but traditional supply chain management often lacks the end- to-end transparency needed to mitigate and correct for the bullwhip effect.

Using data recognizing the excessive costs of forward buying and identifying real-time datasets to better implement buying decisions can help you avoid the bullwhip effect. Unfortunately, traditional supply chain management often lacks the end-to-end transparency to mitigate and correct for the bullwhip effect. Supply chains must be both informed and agile to forecast demand frequency and quantity with accuracy. Transparent data flow is a must for this to happen.

Additionally, controlling lead times can minimize the bullwhip effect through better planning and decreased holding costs. When implemented properly, customer demand remains satisfied. This goes hand-in-hand with providing better communication by using a better data policy. Better data also improves forecasting and inventory audit procedures.

How MacroFab’s Cloud Manufacturing Model Can Help

MacroFab’s cloud manufacturing model is built upon data transparency, data integration, and automation. By centralizing the procurement process of your non-critical purchases using MacroFab’s alternative part sourcing modeling, you can improve your supply chain transparency while furthering your parts network. Potential inventory options come without unnecessary complicated vendor negotiations. As an additional benefit, MacroFab’s bulk-purchasing power can lower your overall costs.

Avoid the Bullwhip Effect

Using MacroFab’s alternative parts sourcing may improve your sourcing efficiency, thereby lowering your associated acquisition costs through decreased transactional expenditures and lower work hours invested. As you build orders, changes, and integrations within MacroFab’s platform, the AI algorithm understands more about your company’s needs and patterns. MacroFab’s digital thread maintains ongoing data about every change that remains available and accessible to your team at all times. Your new insight on order speed, inventory replenishment, and costs can then help you better forecast demand and minimize lead times for a leaner production process, keeping the bullwhip effect at bay.

Want to know more about how MacroFab can help your production? Upload an RFQ for a fast and reliable quote to get the process started. Or use our online tools to create and order a custom PCB prototype.

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