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End-of-Life Inventory Problem with Phaseout Returns

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Abstract

We consider the service parts end-of-life inventory problem of a capital goods manufacturer in the final phase of its life cycle. The final phase starts as soon as the production of parts terminates and continues until the last service contract expires. Final order quantities are considered a popular tactic to sustain service fulfillment obligations and to mitigate the effect of obsolescence. In addition to the final order quantity, other sources to obtain serviceable parts are repairing returned defective items and retrieving parts from phaseout returns. Phaseout returns happen when a customer replaces an old system platform with a next-generation one and returns the old product to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). These returns can well serve the demand for service parts of other customers still using the old generation of the product. In this study, we study the decision-making complications as well as cost-saving opportunities stemming from phaseout occurrence. We use a finite-horizon Markov decision process to characterize the structure of the optimal inventory control policy. We show that the optimal policy consists of a time-varying threshold level for item repair. Furthermore, we study the value of phaseout information by extending the results to cases with an uncertain phaseout quantity or an uncertain schedule. Numerical analysis sheds light on the advantages of the optimal policy compared to some heuristic policies.

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