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Supply chain inventory management and the value of shared information. (English) Zbl 1232.90028
Summary: In traditional supply chain inventory management, orders are the only information firms exchange, but information technology now allows firms to share demand and inventory data quickly and inexpensively. We study the value of sharing these data in a model with one supplier, N identical retailers, and stationary stochastic consumer demand. There are inventory holding costs and back-order penalty costs. We compare a traditional information policy that does not use shared information with a full information policy that does exploit shared information. In a numerical study we find that supply chain costs are 2.2% lower on average with the full information policy than with the traditional information policy, and the maximum difference is 12.1%. We also develop a simulation-based lower bound over all feasible policies. The cost difference between the traditional information policy and the lower bound is an upper bound on the value of information sharing: In the same study, that difference is 3.4% on average, and no more than 13.8%. We contrast the value of information sharing with two other benefits of information technology, faster and cheaper order processing, which lead to shorter lead times and smaller batch sizes, respectively. In our sample, cutting lead times nearly in half reduces costs by 21% on average, and cutting batches in half reduces costs by 22% on average. For the settings we study, we conclude that implementing information technology to accelerate and smooth the physical flow of goods through a supply chain is significantly more valuable than using information technology to expand the flow of information.

90B05 Inventory, storage, reservoirs
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