An operationalization of antifragility in inventory management

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Management Decision


Purpose: The paper explores and characterizes antifragility in simple inventory systems exposed to demand variability, providing the initial inroads to operationalizing antifragility in the context of inventory management. Antifragility refers to the feature of a system that can benefit from uncertainty, rather than suffer from it. The paper expands the concept of inventory beyond that of risk mitigation and towards one of enabling antifragility. Design/methodology/approach: The study employs analytical and simulation modelling of an inventory system with two classes of demand. To separate the influence of factors, a simple inventory policy with a range of fixed order quantities is modelled, allowing for the identification of antifragile regions in an experimental space. Findings: Outputs uncover a variety of performance outcomes, ranging from settings where additional inventory yields no benefit, to areas where additional inventory results in increasing normalized profit with increasing uncertainty, demonstrating antifragility. In between these regions, increases in normalized profit are bounded, and confined to specific regions. Research limitations/implications: This research expands academic understanding of inventory as a vehicle to achieving antifragile outcomes. Although this paper does not solve for an optimal policy as typical inventory research does, it instead characterizes the antifragile outcomes within simple inventory systems. Further research should be carried out to investigate antifragility in settings of greater complexity and design ordering policies leveraging inventory towards a gain from uncertainty. Practical implications: Typically, inventory is used to buffer against uncertainty, and, with a given amount of inventory, the performance is expected to degrade with increasing variability. In this paper, the authors demonstrate that certain levels of additional inventory can result in antifragility and increase profitability as uncertainty increases, extending beyond traditional conceptualizations of inventory and uncertainty. Originality/value: Empirical research into designing antifragile outcomes is limited, with very few examples of increasing performance with increases in uncertainty. This article presents an initial empirical exploration of how additional inventory can result in antifragility.

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