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Estimating the optimal order quantity and the maximum expected profit for single-period inventory decisions

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Abstract

The paper considers the classical single-period inventory model, also known as the Newsboy Problem, with the demand normally distributed and fully observed in successive inventory cycles. The extent of applicability of such a model to inventory management depends upon demand estimation. Appropriate estimators for the optimal order quantity and the maximum expected profit are developed. The statistical properties of the two estimators are explored for both small and large samples, analytically and through Monte-Carlo simulations. For small samples, both estimators are biased. The form of distribution of the optimal order quantity estimator depends upon the critical fractile, while the distribution of the maximum expected profit estimator is always left-skewed. Small samples properties of the estimators indicate that, when the critical fractile is set over a half, the optimal order quantity is underestimated and the maximum expected profit is overestimated with probability over 50%, whereas the probability of overestimating both quantities exceeds again 50% when the critical fractile is below a half. For large samples, based on the asymptotic properties of the two estimators, confidence intervals are derived for the corresponding true population values. The validity of confidence intervals using small samples is tested by developing appropriate Monte-Carlo simulations. In small samples, these intervals attain acceptable confidence levels, but with high unit shortage cost, for the case of maximum expected profit, significant reductions in their precision and stability are observed.

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