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Exploiting timely demand information to reduce inventories. (English) Zbl 0912.90105
Summary: Electronic data interchange (EDI) and related technologies are making it less expensive to frequently transmit demand information up the supply chain from the point of sale. However, little is known about how the various participants in the supply chain might exploit more timely demand information. This research is intended to be an opening contribution to the analytical study of timely demand information. We study a simple two-level system composed of a supplier (or component plant) and a single customer (or final assembly plant). The two factories use a standard periodic base-stock policy for one particular item, but the equal-length production cycles of the two factories do not necessarily coincide. Both participants hold inventories to buffer the effects of uncertain orders and uncertain deliveries. The supplier is in turn supplied by a source with infinite capacity. Final demand occurs only at the final assembly plant, which communicates demand over its order cycle to the component plant. If the component plant begins a production cycle between orders from the final assembly plant, it is uninformed about some number of days’ demand which has been observed at the customer but not yet communicated. Any technology, such as EDI, that makes it cheaper for the customer to communicate demand as it occurs allows the supplier to base its decisions on more accurate information. With more accurate demand information the supplier could reduce inventories, or improve the reliability of its deliveries to its customer, or both. The customer, in turn, could reduce its inventories if its supplier were more reliable. We examine the changes brought about by the exchange of timely demand information in inventories and service levels at both the supplier and customer. Our results show that inventory-related benefits are particularly sensitive to demand variability, the service level provided by the supplier, and the degree to which the order and production cycles are out of phase.

MSC:
90B05 Inventory, storage, reservoirs
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