Selection of simulation tools for improving supply chain performance

  • Christopher Owen

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business Administration


Simulation is an effective method for improving supply chain performance. However, there is
limited advice available to assist practitioners in selecting the most appropriate method for a given problem. Much of the advice that does exist relies on custom and practice rather than a rigorous conceptual or empirical analysis.
An analysis of the different modelling techniques applied in the supply chain domain was
conducted, and the three main approaches to simulation used were identified; these are System
Dynamics (SD), Discrete Event Simulation (DES) and Agent Based Modelling (ABM). This research
has examined these approaches in two stages. Firstly, a first principles analysis was carried out in order to challenge the received wisdom about their strengths and weaknesses and a series of
propositions were developed from this initial analysis. The second stage was to use the case study
approach to test these propositions and to provide further empirical evidence to support their
comparison. The contributions of this research are both in terms of knowledge and practice. In terms of
knowledge, this research is the first holistic cross paradigm comparison of the three main approaches in the supply chain domain. Case studies have involved building ‘back to back’ models of the same supply chain problem using SD and a discrete approach (either DES or ABM). This has led to contributions concerning the limitations of applying SD to operational problem types. SD has also been found to have risks when applied to strategic and policy problems. Discrete methods have been found to have potential for exploring strategic problem types. It has been
found that discrete simulation methods can model material and information feedback
successfully. Further insights have been gained into the relationship between modelling purpose and modelling approach. In terms of practice, the findings have been summarised in the form of a framework linking modelling purpose, problem characteristics and simulation approach.
Date of Award3 Oct 2013
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPavel Albores (Supervisor) & Douglas M Love (Supervisor)


  • supply chain
  • simulation
  • modelling
  • system dynamics
  • agent based modelling
  • discrete event simulation

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