Journal Articles

A Profit-Maximizing Approach to Disposition Decisions for Product Returns

2011, Decision Sciences

Mark E. Ferguson, Moritz Fleischmann, Gilvan C. Souza


Motivated by the asset recovery process at IBM, we analyze the optimal disposition decision for product returns in electronic products industries. Returns may be either remanufactured for reselling or dismantled for spare parts. Reselling a remanufactured unit typically yields higher unit margins. However, demand is uncertain. A common policy in many firms is to rank disposition alternatives by unit margins. We propose a profit-maximization approach that considers demand uncertainty. We develop single period and multiperiod stochastic optimization models for the disposition problem. Analyzing these models, we show that the optimal allocation balances expected marginal profits across the disposition alternatives. A detailed numerical study reveals that our approach to the disposition problem outperforms the current practice of focusing exclusively on high-margin options, and we identify conditions under which this improvement is the highest. In addition, we show that a simple myopic heuristic in the multiperiod problem performs well.


Ferguson, M., M. Fleischmann, and Gilvan C. Souza (2011), "A Profit-Maximizing Approach to Disposition Decisions for Product Returns," Decision Sciences, Vol. 42, No. 3, August, pp. 773-798.

Kelley School of Business

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