Purpose – Planning inventories for emergency supplies such as bottled water, non‐perishable foods, batteries, and flashlights can be challenging for retailers situated within the projected path of a severe storm. The retailer's inventory decisions are complicated by the inherent volatility of storm forecasts and the corresponding demand predictions. The purpose of this paper is to explore both proactive and reactive inventory control policies within the context of probable pre‐storm demand surge for a fast‐moving emergency supply item, and identify the conditions that are most conducive to each strategy according to the minimax decision criterion. Design/methodology/approach – The inventory system is formulated based on an underlying economic order quantity framework. Minimax decision rules are developed analytically. Sensitivity analysis is facilitated by both analytic and numerical methods. Findings – The conditions that are conducive to a proactive ordering strategy are limited supplier flexibility, acute demand surge, and exorbitant reorder costs; otherwise, the minimax inventory control policy is given by a reactive ordering strategy. Research limitations/implications – The above‐mentioned findings are based on a stylized inventory model characterized by assumptions that are consistent with the academic literature. In order to assess the implications of these results in practice, the model should be extended according to the relevance of each assumption to specific real‐world inventory systems. Social implications – Householders preparing for probable evacuation or post‐storm power outages typically overwhelm grocery and home improvement stores during a brief period prior to the impact of an approaching weather system. This phenomenon triggers a temporary spike in demand for several stock keeping units, which is oftentimes accompanied by pervasive inventory shortages that proliferate community vulnerability and engender a sense of disarray throughout the local populace. Effective inventory management of emergency supply items during this period can help alleviate some of these social dilemmas. Originality/value – Few academic publications address inventory management from the perspective of humanitarian relief. Among existing studies, the emphasis has been coordination of emergency supplies for post‐disaster relief and recovery activities. This paper appears to be the first academic investigation of an inventory system driven by the pre‐storm demand surge for emergency supplies that typically occurs in the presence of an ominous and potentially devastating weather system. Additionally, this study conceivably represents the first minimax distribution free approach to inventory control within the context of humanitarian logistics and disruption management.
Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 20, 2011
Keywords: Humanitarian logistics; Inventory control; Economic order quantities; Storms; Demand forecasting
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