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Non-Convex Costs and Capital Utilization: A Study of Production Scheduling at Automobile Assembly Plants



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.

Suggested Citation

  • George J. Hall, 1997. "Non-Convex Costs and Capital Utilization: A Study of Production Scheduling at Automobile Assembly Plants," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1169, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1169

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    Cited by:

    1. ARATA Yoshiyuki, 2015. "Endogenous Business Cycles Caused by Nonconvex Costs and Interactions," Discussion papers 15085, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    2. Cristian Huse & Claudio Lucinda, 2014. "The Market Impact and the Cost of Environmental Policy: Evidence from the Swedish Green Car Rebate," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(578), pages 393-419, August.
    3. Adam Copeland & George Hall, 2011. "The response of prices, sales, and output to temporary changes in demand," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(2), pages 232-269, March.
    4. Irvine, F. Owen, 2007. "Sales persistence and the reduction in GDP volatility," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(1-2), pages 22-30, July.
    5. Valerie A. Ramey & Daniel J. Vine, 2004. "Tracking the Source of the Decline in GDP Volatility: An Analysis of the Automobile Industry," NBER Working Papers 10384, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Mathieu Taschereau-Dumouchel & Edouard Schaal, 2015. "Coordinating Business Cycles," 2015 Meeting Papers 178, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. Adam Copeland, 2008. "The Dynamics of Automobile Expenditures," 2008 Meeting Papers 852, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. Adam Copeland & Wendy E. Dunn & George J. Hall, 2005. "Prices, production, and inventories over the automotive model year," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2005-25, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    9. Jonathan McCarthy & Egon Zakrajsek, 2000. "Microeconomic inventory adjustment: evidence from U.S. firm-level data," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2000-24, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    10. Walter Briec & Kristiaan Kerstens & Philippe Venden Eeckaut, 2004. "Non-convex Technologies and Cost Functions: Definitions, Duality and Nonparametric Tests of Convexity," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 81(2), pages 155-192, February.
    11. Fabrice Gilles, 2014. "Evaluating the impact of a working time regulation on capital operating time. The French 35-hour work week experience," Working Papers hal-01006765, HAL.
    12. GĂ©rard P. Cachon & Marcelo Olivares, 2010. "Drivers of Finished-Goods Inventory in the U.S. Automobile Industry," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(1), pages 202-216, January.
    13. Daniel J. Vine & Valerie A. Ramey, 2006. "Declining Volatility in the U.S. Automobile Industry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1876-1889, December.
    14. Hall, George & Rust, John, 2000. "An empirical model of inventory investment by durable commodity intermediaries," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 171-214, June.
    15. Mollick, Andre Varella, 2004. "Production smoothing in the Japanese vehicle industry," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 63-74, September.
    16. Adam Copeland, 2014. "Intertemporal substitution and new car purchases," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 45(3), pages 624-644, September.
    17. Friberg, Richard & Huse, Cristian, 2012. "How to use demand systems to evaluate risky projects, with an application to automobile production," CEPR Discussion Papers 9266, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    18. repec:spr:jeicoo:v:12:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11403-015-0169-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Fabrice Gilles, 2015. "Evaluating the Impact of a Working Time Regulation on Capital Operating Time: The French 35-hour Work Week Experience," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 62(2), pages 117-148, May.
    20. Kostas Tsekouras & Efthalia Dimara & Dimitris Skuras & Dimitris Tzelepis, 2009. "Back to basics: The Comanor–Wilson MES index revisited," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 111-120, January.

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