The Supply Chain Beer Game Hits Chicago Just In Time for the Super Bowl

Anybody who has gone to business school and taken an intro class to operations research or supply chain is intimately familiar with the proverbial beer game (some have even played it for real, drinking in the theory, which makes it all the more enjoyable). The beer game essentially teaches the basics of the challenge of multi-tier inventory management within a supply chain. As I wrote about in the past the beer game "teaches the challenges of managing and communicating supply and demand signals across multiple tiers of a supply chain -- and its impact on availability and inventory as a result. Besides its educational value, the beer game can be fun, especially on a Friday afternoon, when you can drink the game pieces once the demonstration is over."

It looks like the challenges the beer game teaches could manifest themselves for Super Bowl Sunday, leaving some of us thirstier (or poorer) thanks to supply chain challenges. According to Crain's Chicago the snow storm from earlier in the week "and its messy aftermath have distributors and retailers scrambling to get beer supplies to customers for this weekend's football extravaganza -- the biggest sales event in what otherwise is the beer industry's slowest period of the year ... Because many customers emptied store shelves during the pre-storm rush, retailers have little time to replenish supplies."

Complicating the beer run earlier in the week is that "Beer and alcohol wholesalers and retailers were grounded Wednesday by as much as 20 inches of snow across the Chicago area. Now behind schedule, many distributors are planning to add a Saturday delivery to make sure that bars and grocers have plenty of brew in time for Sunday's 5:30 p.m. kick-off." To compensate for the added effort, major brewers appear to be raising prices. Yet for all of us beer snobs out there -- who I'm guessing are more likely to have actually played the supply chain beer game or are at least aware of it -- we can take solace in the fact that pricing for "smaller-volume, premium-priced craft beers likely won't change."

As a final side note, I can say that after this little incident during the blizzard I will have earned every last drop of the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA and Bells Two Hearted Ale that I plan to quaff on Sunday night ... and lastly: Go Steelers.

- Jason Busch

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