Unraveling Behavioral Ordering: Relative Costs and the Bullwhip Effect

Brent B. Moritz, Arunachalam Narayanan, Chris Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Problem definition: We study the bullwhip effect and analyze the impact of human behavior. We separate rational ordering in response to increasing incoming orders from irrational ordering. Academic/practical relevance: Prior research has shown that the bullwhip effect occurs in about two-thirds of firms and impacts profitability by 10%–30%. Most bullwhip mitigation efforts emphasize processes such as information sharing, collaboration, and coordination. Previous work has not been able to separate the impact of behavioral ordering from rational increases in order quantities. Methodology: Using data from a laboratory experiment, we estimate behavioral parameters from three ordering models. We use a simulation to evaluate the cost impact of bullwhip behavior on the supply chain and by echelon. Results: We find that cost increases are not equally shared. Human biases (behavioral ordering) at the retailer results in higher relative costs elsewhere in the supply chain, even as similar ordering by a wholesaler, distributor, or factory results in increased costs within that echelon. These results are consistent regardless of the behavioral models that we consider. The cognitive profile of the decision maker impacts both echelon and supply chain costs. We show that the cost impact is higher as more decision makers enter a supply chain. Managerial implications: The cost of behavioral ordering is not consistent across the supply chain. Managers can use the estimation/simulation framework to analyze the impact of human behavior in their supply chains and evaluate improvement efforts such as coordination or information sharing. Our results show that behavioral ordering by a retailer has an out-sized impact on supply chain costs, which suggests that upstream echelons are better placed to make forecasting and replenishment decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1733-1750
Number of pages18
JournalManufacturing and Service Operations Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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