Several years ago my Granddaughter asked me to load FarmVille 2 – Country Escape on my iPad. She was playing it and she wanted me to be able to play it together with her. I eagerly obliged!
I don’t really play any other video games but Farmville caught my attention. First and foremost was my Granddaughter’s desire to do this with me. But I also found that the ability to grow your Farm by adding capabilities and features, by controlling the way in which you buy and sell things, and managing your inventory levels of all of the materials was both fun and interesting.
And then I realized it. In playing FarmVille I was really just managing a digital Supply Chain!
Farmville was a Supply Chain game!!!
Farmville had all of the elements of a real Supply Chain. I don’t know if the creators of the game had a Supply Chain background or if that was their intent. But deliberately or not they had managed to create a game which was a great vehicle to educate and communicate the principles of managing a Supply Chain.
For those of you unfamiliar with FarmVille you start off with a very small farm. As you progress you are able to add Farm animals, Crops, Buildings, and Workstations (eg. Dairy, Windmill). You can buy and sell items. You unlock more and more features as your advance. And you are able to connect with a Co-op to buy, sell, share and jointly create more goods.
It has all the markings of a Supply Chain. Let’s explore more of how it works.
In FarmVille you have the ability to Buy goods from others. Items are regularly posted every 10 minutes for anyone to buy. But as soon as they are sold they are no longer available. You need to scan the list of items being sold and purchase based upon both your current needs and potential future needs. Rare items appear occasionally and should be bought up if possible.
But you do not have unlimited buying capability. You have to work within the cash that you have as well as the storage capacity available for the goods that you buy. Further others are able to change the prices for goods so you need to be diligent in ensuring that items are not overpriced.
Likewise you are able to sell the goods that you have. In exchange for selling your goods you can get some combination of cash, experience points and other bonuses depending on where you sell the goods in the game. You can also alter the price you want to sell items for in some cases.
To maximize value for your sales you want to ensure that you are selling goods in the most appropriate channel. In most cases there is demand for your goods in multiple channels.
The game comes with a number of features for storing and processing goods. There is a Barn and a Silo. But depending on the category of the goods, or what commodity they are, they can only be stored in the Barn OR the Silo. The storage capacity of the Barn and the Silo start off very small. You are able to increase capacity over time. But as you progress in the game you cannot store goods greater than your capacity.
Further there are a number of other facilities such as a Windmill, a Dairy, a Craft Workstation, a Pastry oven, etc. You can add more and more of these items also as you advance but each one has a certain maximum capacity for both processing and holding goods. You must work within this capacity as well.
You are able to hold inventory at many stages in the game. Many raw materials are held in the Silo for instance but as soon as they are processed through a facility, such as the Dairy, then the processed goods are now stored in the Barn. Depending on the relative capacity of the Barn and the Silo you may choose to store either more raw materials or more finished goods.
Further all of the raw materials are used to create many different types of finished goods. It is almost always better to keep your inventory at the raw material level and only use them to create finished goods as actual demand materializes. That is like a pull or just-in-time delivery system.
You do start the game with a limited amount of cash. You need this cash to expand the number of animals, crops, and facilities that you have. But you need to generate cash to facilitate this expansion. And to get the cash you need to sell goods.
Without cash you cannot run your farm or business. With cash you can slowly and methodically expand your business which enables you to generate more cash which allows you to expand even more, and so on and so on.
At any point in time you are deciding where to invest your precious cash to maximize your ability to run a profitable and growing operation.
Just like in Retail, where there is a new Sale or Season every couple of months, so in FarmVille there is a new Event every few weeks. Every event usually requires the stockpiling or creation of capacity for certain raw materials and finished goods.
Your ability to optimize the creation of this specific capacity and inventory directly affects your ability to be successful in winning the objective of that specific event. And just like in Retail you want to ensure that you don’t end up with a lot of inventory at the end of the Sale, or Event, which you may have to mark down to sell.
Farmville is all about Supply/Demand Planning. While there is no long term forecasting the game does work well when managed as a Lean, Just-In-Time Delivery system. This requires extensive planning in terms of capacity and capability, positioning of raw material inventory, creation of cash reserves, deployment of finished goods, and readiness to deliver/sell goods.
There are many different metrics that you can track in FarmVille as well. It could be cash, your inventory levels, how quickly you can finish events, the number of facilities or the amount of capacity that you have, or even whether you can fill orders on time.
I look at all of these but most importantly I look at the amount of cash that I have and the level that I have achieved. I believe those to be the end result metrics and everything else is a supporting metric.
However you choose to measure your success there are many indicators in FarmVille.
The FarmVille Supply Chain Conclusion
Farmville is a fun, great game to play. I was astonished to get into it and realize that so many of the principles that apply to running a Supply Chain and an Operation are directly applicable to FarmVille.
If one is so inclined you can put a lot of intellectual thought into how to apply Supply Chain techniques while having fun playing the game.
My Granddaughter is happy that we play FarmVille together, and that is what is most important to me.
But whether it is FarmVille or some other video game that interests you, think about in playing the game whether you too are unknowingly just managing another Supply Chain!
What games do you play that are like managing a Supply Chain?
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