An index heuristic for transshipment decisions in multi-location inventory systems based on a pairwise decomposition
In multi-location inventory systems, transshipments are often used to improve customer service and reduce cost. Determining optimal transshipment policies for such systems involves a complex optimisation problem that is only tractable for systems with few locations. Consequently simple heuristic transshipment policies are often applied in practice. This paper develops an approximate solution method which applies decomposition to reduce a Markov decision process model of a multi-location inventory system into a number of models involving only two locations. The value functions from the subproblems are used to estimate the fair charge for the inventory provided in a transshipment. This estimate of the fair charge is used as the decision criterion in a heuristic transshipment policy for the multi-location system. A numerical study shows that the proposed heuristic can deliver considerable cost savings compared to the simple heuristics often used in practice.
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