A scalar conservation law with discontinuous flux for supply chains with finite buffers

Hans Armbruster, Simone Göttlich, Michael Herty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


An aggregate continuum model for production flows and supply chains with finite buffers is proposed and analyzed. The model extends earlier partial differential equations that represent deterministic coarse grained models of stochastic production systems based on mass conservation. The finite size buffers lead to a discontinuous clearing function describing the throughput as a function of the work in progress (WIP). Following previous work on stationary distribution of WIP along the production line, the clearing function becomes dependent on the production stage and decays linearly as a function of the distance from the end of the production line. A transient experiment representing the breakdown of the last machine in the production line and its subsequent repair is analyzed analytically and numerically. Shock waves and rarefaction waves generated by blocking and reopening of the production line are determined. It is shown that the time to shutdown of the complete flow line is much shorter than the time to recovery from a shutdown. The former evolves on a transportation time scale, whereas the latter evolves on a much longer time scale. Comparisons with discrete event simulations of the same experiment are made.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1070-1087
Number of pages18
JournalSIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2011


  • Conservation laws with discontinuous flux
  • Production flow networks
  • Supply chains

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Mathematics


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