Optimising a general repair kit problem with a service constraint
Field services are a particular type of after-sales service performed at the customer's location where technicians repair malfunctioning machines. The inventory decisions about which spare part types to take to the repair site and in what quantities is called the repair kit problem. This problem is characterized by an order-based performance measure since a customer is only satisfied when all required spare parts are available to fix the machine. As a result, the service level in the decision making process is defined as a job fill rate. In this paper we derive a closed-form expression for the expected service level and total costs for the repair kit problem in a general setting, where multiple units of each part type can be used in a multi-period problem. Such an all-or-nothing strategy is a new characteristic to investigate, but commonly used in practice. Namely, items are only taken from the inventory when all items to perform the repair are available in the right quantity. We develop a new algorithm to determine the contents of the repair kit both for a service and cost model while incorporating this new expression for the job fill rate. We show that the algorithm finds solutions which differ on average 0.2% from optimal costs. We perform a case study to test the performance of the algorithm in practice. Our approach results in service level improvements of more than 30% against similar holding costs.