, Volume 34, Issue 8, pp 717-728

Supply chain capacity and outsourcing decisions: the dynamic interplay of demand and supply uncertainty

Abstract

We study the interplay of demand and supply uncertainty in capacity and outsourcing decisions in multi-stage supply chains. We consider a firm's investment in two stages of a supply chain (Stage 1 models the “core” activities of the firm, while Stage 2 are the “non-core” activities). The firm invests in these two stages in order to maximize the multi-period, discounted profit. We consider how non-stationary stochastic demand affects the outsourcing decisions. We also consider how investment levels are affected by non-stationary stochastic supply when the market responds to the firm's investments. We characterize the optimal capacity investment decisions for the single- and multi-period versions of our model and focus on how changes in supply and demand uncertainty affect the extent of outsourcing. We find that as the responsiveness of the market to investments made by the firm increases, the reliance on outsourcing generally increases. While greater supply and greater demand have the expected effect on investments, decreases in variability are not as straightforward. Greater supply uncertainty increases the need for vertical integration while greater demand uncertainty increases the reliance on outsourcing. In the multi-period model, we find that the nature of adjustments in capacity based on changes in demand or supply follows from the comparative statics of the single-period model, although whether outsourcing increases or decreases depends on the costs of adjusting capacity.