The challenge of production and inventory management for blood platelets (PLTs) is the requirement to meet highly uncertain demands. Shortages are to be minimized, if not to be avoided at all. Overproduction, in turn, leads to high levels of outdating as PLTs have a limited "shelf life." Outdating is to be minimized for ethical and cost reasons.
Operations research (OR) methodology was applied to the PLT inventory management problem. The problem can be formulated in a general mathematical form. To solve this problem, a five-step procedure was used. This procedure is based on a combination of two techniques, a mathematical technique called stochastic dynamic programming (SDP) and computer simulation.
The approach identified an optimal production policy, leading to the computation of a simple and nearly optimal PLT production "order-up-to" rule. This rule prescribes a fixed order-up-to level for each day of the week. The approach was applied to a test study with actual data for a regional Dutch blood bank. The main finding in the test study was that outdating could be reduced from 15-20 percent to less than 0.1 percent with virtually no shortages. Blood group preferences and extending the shelf life of more than 5 days appeared to be of marginal effect.
In this article the worlds of blood management and the mathematical discipline of OR are brought together for the optimization of blood PLT production. This leads to simple nearly optimal blood PLT production policies that are suitable for practical implementation.