Accounting Student Designs Supply Chain Simulation

Accounting Major Dani Crabtree ’13

By Will Gross – Over the years, Dr. Jean Hawkins’s Cost Accounting students have often struggled to learn and appreciate the practical workings of business supply chains and the problems associated with managing them.  Many textbooks describe the supply chain in abbreviated overviews, which Professor Hawkins and students found insufficient.  The more effective supply chain management instructional tools available were expensive and inappropriate given the context of the course.

“Dani came to the rescue,” Dr. Hawkins said.  This year Dani Crabtree, a junior accounting major at Jewell, developed a supply chain simulation to help students learn how supply chains are used in the business world.  “Dr. Hawkins and I replicated what businesses have to go through everyday,” Crabtree stated.

Before class, a document was sent to each student that provided a brief overview of the simulation.  The class was split up into eight groups and each group was designated to be a distributor or a producer.  The distribution groups had to contact the production groups and propose an order that included the price and quantity of each product.  Then the producers had to determine to accept or decline the offer and deliver a response.  Often this would go on back and forth many times before an agreement was reached.  Dani decided to use Legos to symbolize the products.  One student stated, “I have never paid so much for a Lego.”

Quickly the distributors became frustrated with the difficulty of buying from the producers at an acceptable price, while the producers became frustrated with the difficulty of selling to the distributors at a profitable price.  Messages back-and-forth were written on paper slips and hand delivered by team members.  This process quickly exposed the communication difficulties and negotiation challenges in the supply chain.

While the simulation started quietly, toward the end of the class students had become frustrated and acutely aware of the complexities and challenges of effectively managing even a simple supply chain.  Based on the experiential learning benefits of Dani’s simulation, Professor Hawkins plans to incorporate it into future course design.

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