Inventory management – Some effects of risk pooling

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Predictive Analytics


The newsvendor described in the previous post has decided to branch out having news boys placed at strategic corners in the neighborhood. He will first consider three locations, but have six in his sights.

The question to be pondered is how many of the newspaper he should order for these three locations and the possible effects on profit and risk (Eppen, 1979) and (Chang & Lin, 1991).

He assumes that the demand distribution he experienced at the first location also will apply for the two others and that all locations (point of sales) can be served from a centralized inventory. For the sake of simplicity he further assumes that all points of sales can be restocked instantly (i.e. zero lead time) at zero cost, if necessary or advantageous by shipment from one of the other locations and that the demand at the different locations will be uncorrelated. The individual point of sales will initially have a working stock, but will have no need of safety stock.

In short is this equivalent to having one inventory serve newspaper sales generated by three (or six) copies of the original demand distribution:

The aggregated demand distribution for the three locations is still positively skewed (0.32) but much less than the original (0.78) and has a lower coefficient of variation – 27% – against 45% for the original1:

The demand variability has thus been substantially reduced by this risk pooling2)  and the question now is how this will influence the vendor’s profit.

Profit and Inventory level with Risk Pooling

As in the previous post we have calculated profit and loss as:

Profit = sales less production costs of both sold and unsold items
Loss = value of lost sales (stock-out) and the cost of having produced and stocked more than can be expected to be sold

The figure below indicates what will happen as we change the inventory level. We can see as we successively move to higher levels (from left to right on the x-axis) that expected profit (blue line) will increase to a point of maximum – ¤16541 at a level of 7149 units:

Compared to the point of maximum profit for a single warehouse (profit ¤4963 at a level of 2729 units, see previous post), have this risk pooling increased the vendors profit by 11.1% while reducing his inventory by 12.7%. Centralization of the three inventories has thus been a successful operational hedge3  for our newsvendor by mitigating some, but not all, of the demand uncertainty.

Since this risk mitigation was a success the newsvendor wants to calculate the possible benefits from serving six newsboys at different locations from the same inventory.

Under the same assumptions, it turns out that this gives an even better result, with an increase in profit of almost 16% and at the same time reducing the inventory by 15%:

The inventory ‘centralization’ has then both increased profit and reduced inventory level compared to a strategy with inventories held at each location.

Centralizing inventory (inventory pooling) in a two-echelon supply chain may thus reduce costs and increase profits for the newsvendor carrying the inventory, but the individual newsboys may lose profits due to the pooling. On the other hand, the newsvendor will certainly lose profit if he allows the newsboys to decide the level of their own inventory and the centralized inventory.

One of the reasons behind this conflict of interests is that each of the newsvendor and newsboys will benefit one-sidedly from shifting the demand risk to another party even though the performance may suffer as a result (Kemahloğlu-Ziya, 2004) and (Anupindi and Bassok 1999).

In real life, the actual risk pooling effects would depend on the correlations between each locations demand. A positive correlation would reduce the effect while a negative correlation would increase the effects. If all locations were perfectly correlated (positive) the effect would be zero and a correlation coefficient of minus one would maximize the effects.

The third effect

The third direct effect of risk pooling is the reduced variability of expected profit. If we plot the profit variability, measured by its coefficient of variation4 (CV) for the three sets of strategies discussed above; one single inventory (warehouse), three single inventories versus all three inventories centralized and six single inventories versus all six centralized.

The graph below depicts the situation. The three curves show the CV for corporate profit given the three alternatives and the vertical lines the point of profit for each alternative.

The angle of inclination for each curve shows the profits sensitivity for changes in the inventory level and the location each strategies impact on the predictability of realized profit.

A single warehouse strategy (blue) gives clearly a much less ability to predict future profit than the ‘six centralized warehouse’ (purple) while the ‘three centralized warehouse’ (green) fall somewhere in between:

So in addition to reduced costs and increased profits centralization, also gives a more predictable result, and lower sensitivity to inventory level and hence a greater leeway in the practical application of different policies for inventory planning.


We have thus shown through Monte-Carlo simulations, that the benefits of pooling will increase with the number of locations and that the benefits of risk pooling can be calculated without knowing the closed form5 of the demand distribution.

Since we do not need the closed form of the demand distribution, we are not limited to low demand variability or the possibility of negative demand (Normal distributions etc.). Expanding the scope of analysis to include stochastic supply, supply disruptions, information sharing, localization of inventory etc. is natural extensions of this method6.

This opens for use of robust and efficient methods and techniques for solving problems in inventory management unrestricted by the form of the demand distribution and best of all, the results given as graphs will be more easily communicated to all parties than pure mathematical descriptions of the solutions.


Anupindi, R. & Bassok, Y. (1999). Centralization of stocks: Retailers vs. manufacturer.  Management Science 45(2), 178-191. doi: 10.1287/mnsc.45.2.178, accessed 09/12/2012.

Chang, Pao-Long & Lin, C.-T. (1991). Centralized Effect on Expected Costs in a Multi-Location Newsboy Problem. Journal of the Operational Research Society of Japan, 34(1), 87–92.

Eppen,G.D. (1979). Effects of centralization on expected costs in a multi-location newsboy problem. Management Science, 25(5), 498–501.

Kemahlioğlu-Ziya, E. (2004). Formal methods of value sharing in supply chains. PhD thesis, School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, July 2004. ziya_eda_200407_phd.pdf, accessed 09/12/2012.

OESER, G. (2011). Methods of Risk Pooling in Business Logistics and Their Application. Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder). URL:, accessed 09/12/2012.


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  1. The quartile variation has been reduced by 37%. []
  2. We distinguish between ten main types of risk pooling that may reduce total demand and/or lead time variability (uncertainty): capacity pooling, central ordering, component commonality, inventory pooling, order splitting, postponement, product pooling, product substitution, transshipments, and virtual pooling. (Oeser, 2011 []
  3. Risk pooling can be considered as a form of operational hedging. Operational hedging is risk mitigation using operational instruments. []
  4.  The coefficient of variation is defined as the ratio of the standard deviation to the mean – also known as unitized risk. []
  5. In mathematics, an expression is said to be a closed-form expression if it can be expressed analytically in terms of a finite number of certain “well-known” functions. []
  6. We will return to some of these issues in later posts. []


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S@R develops models for support of decision making under uncertainty. Taking advantage of recognized financial and economic theory, we customize simulation models to fit specific industries, situations and needs.

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