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Volume flexibility and capacity investment under demand uncertainty


  • Hagspiel, Verena
  • Huisman, Kuno J.M.
  • Kort, Peter M.


The paper considers optimal capacity investment decisions under uncertainty taking a real options approach. Concerning the production decision, we study a flexible and an inflexible scenario. The flexible firm can costlessly adjust production over time with the capacity level as the upper bound, while the inflexible firm fixes production at capacity level from the moment of investment onwards. We find that the flexible firm invests in higher capacity than the inflexible firm, where the capacity difference increases with uncertainty. For the flexible firm the initial capacity utilization rate can be quite low, especially when investment costs are concave and the economic environment is uncertain. As to the timing of the investment there are two contrary effects. First, the flexible firm has an incentive to invest earlier, because flexibility raises the project value. Second, the flexible firm has an incentive to invest later, because costs are larger due to the higher capacity level. The latter effect dominates in highly uncertain economic environments. Our model being dynamic enables us to derive the at first sight counterintuitive result that an increase in capacity holding cost raises the capacity level the firm invests in.

Suggested Citation

  • Hagspiel, Verena & Huisman, Kuno J.M. & Kort, Peter M., 2016. "Volume flexibility and capacity investment under demand uncertainty," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 178(C), pages 95-108.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:proeco:v:178:y:2016:i:c:p:95-108
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpe.2016.05.007

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jan A. Van Mieghem & Maqbool Dada, 1999. "Price Versus Production Postponement: Capacity and Competition," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 45(12), pages 1639-1649, December.
    2. Bengtsson, Jens, 2001. "Manufacturing flexibility and real options: A review," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1-3), pages 213-224, December.
    3. Dangl, Thomas, 1999. "Investment and capacity choice under uncertain demand," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 117(3), pages 415-428, September.
    4. Avinash K. Dixit & Robert S. Pindyck, 1994. "Investment under Uncertainty," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 5474.
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    6. Bar-Ilan, Avner & Strange, William C., 1999. "The Timing and Intensity of Investment," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 57-77, January.
    7. Robert Swinney & Gérard P. Cachon & Serguei Netessine, 2011. "Capacity Investment Timing by Start-ups and Established Firms in New Markets," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(4), pages 763-777, April.
    8. Ravi Anupindi & Li Jiang, 2008. "Capacity Investment Under Postponement Strategies, Market Competition, and Demand Uncertainty," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 54(11), pages 1876-1890, November.
    9. Robert McDonald & Daniel Siegel, 1986. "The Value of Waiting to Invest," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(4), pages 707-727.
    10. Bengtsson, Jens & Olhager, Jan, 2002. "Valuation of product-mix flexibility using real options," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 13-28, July.
    11. Manu Goyal & Serguei Netessine, 2007. "Strategic Technology Choice and Capacity Investment Under Demand Uncertainty," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 53(2), pages 192-207, February.
    12. Golden, William & Powell, Philip, 2000. "Towards a definition of flexibility: in search of the Holy Grail?," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 373-384, August.
    13. Krishnan S. Anand & Karan Girotra, 2007. "The Strategic Perils of Delayed Differentiation," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 53(5), pages 697-712, May.
    14. R. Glenn Hubbard, 1994. "Investment under Uncertainty: Keeping One's Options Open," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1816-1831, December.
    15. McDonald, Robert L & Siegel, Daniel R, 1985. "Investment and the Valuation of Firms When There Is an Option to Shut Down," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 26(2), pages 331-349, June.
    16. De Leeuw, A. C. J. & Volberda, H. W., 1996. "On the concept of flexibility: A dual control perspective," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 121-139, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michail Chronopoulos & Verena Hagspiel & Stein-Erik Fleten, 2017. "Stepwise investment and capacity sizing under uncertainty," OR Spectrum: Quantitative Approaches in Management, Springer;Gesellschaft für Operations Research e.V., vol. 39(2), pages 447-472, March.
    2. repec:eee:ejores:v:279:y:2019:i:2:p:635-644 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Wen, Xingang & Hagspiel, V. & Kort, Peter, 2017. "Subsidized Capacity Investment under Uncertainty," Discussion Paper 2017-043, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    4. repec:eee:ejores:v:262:y:2017:i:2:p:660-672 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:eee:proeco:v:198:y:2018:i:c:p:165-176 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:pal:jorsoc:v:68:y:2017:i:12:d:10.1057_s41274-017-0196-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:eee:transb:v:122:y:2019:i:c:p:249-264 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Wen, Xingang, 2017. "Strategic Capacity Investment under Uncertainty with Volume Flexibility," Discussion Paper 2017-019, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    9. Lavrutich, Maria N., 2017. "Capacity choice under uncertainty in a duopoly with endogenous exit," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 258(3), pages 1033-1053.
    10. repec:eee:proeco:v:202:y:2018:i:c:p:172-181 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Xingang Wen & Peter M. Kort & Dolf Talman, 2017. "Volume flexibility and capacity investment: a real options approach," Journal of the Operational Research Society, Palgrave Macmillan;The OR Society, vol. 68(12), pages 1633-1646, December.

    More about this item


    Investment analysis; Flexible manufacturing; Real options; Capacity choice;

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • D92 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Intertemporal Firm Choice, Investment, Capacity, and Financing
    • G31 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Capital Budgeting; Fixed Investment and Inventory Studies


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