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Non-convex costs and capital utilization: A study of production scheduling at automobile assembly plants

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  • Hall, George J.

Abstract

This paper studies how managers at automobile assembly plants organize production across time. Detailed data from eleven single-source automobile assembly plants display considerable cross-plant heterogeneity. At plants which make low- and medium-selling vehicles the capital stock often sits idle, production is more variable than sales, and week-long shutdowns are often used to vary output. In contrast, at plants which make high-selling vehicles, the capital stock rarely sits idle, production is about as variable as sales, and over time -- bit week-long shutdowns -- is most frequently used to vary output. To explain this difference in production scheduling, I formulate and solve a dynamic programming model of a plant manager. The solution to the dynamic program predicts that when sales are low, non-convexities at the plant level induce the manager to bunch production at points of low average cost; thus, the manager uses less than full capital utilization on average and makes production more volatile than sales. When sales are high, the plant operates in a convex region of the cost curve. Hence the manager employs high levels of capital utilization and makes production less volatile than sales.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Monetary Economics.

Volume (Year): 45 (2000)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 681-716

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Handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:45:y:2000:i:3:p:681-716

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505566

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  14. Alan S. Blinder & Louis J. Maccini, 1991. "Taking Stock: A Critical Assessment of Recent Research on Inventories," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 73-96, Winter.
  15. Anil K. Kashyap & David W. Wilcox, 1990. "Production and inventory control at the General Motors Corporation during the 1920s and 1930s," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 135, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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  17. Tauchen, George, 1986. "Finite state markov-chain approximations to univariate and vector autoregressions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 177-181.
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