M&SOM Review

As consumers become increasingly aware of the conveniences of online shopping, their purchasing behavior becomes more complex. Not only do shoppers compare prices at competing online retailers in real time, they also take into account various factors such as the possibility of future discounts, stock levels, and retailers’ return policies. Consequently, a costly behavioral phenomenon arises for online retailers: online shoppers’ propensity to strategically defer purchases until prices drop.

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The steel industry is one of the largest industrial energy consumers and one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas and air pollution. Consequently, for most steel companies, improving energy utilization and reducing environmental impact become equally important as improving productivity and profitability. Iron and steel production is a complicated multistage process that mainly consists of iron making, steel making, and hot rolling and cold rolling stages, where the cold rolling stage consists of pickling, rolling, batch annealing, temper rolling, and some post-treatment steps. Batch annealing is a key operation which can improve the mechanical properties of cold rolled products. However, annealing is also a main energy-consuming operation in the cold rolling stage; it consumes a huge amount of energy and resources, such as water, electricity, and coal gas and protective gas. Thus, the batch annealing process is one of the bottlenecks at most steel plants, and improving its efficiency becomes crucial to increase a steel company’s profitability and energy utilization.

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In the past 25 years, demand for emergency healthcare in the United States has exploded, pushing capacity-strained emergency departments across the country to the limit and prompting organizations from the National Academy of Medicine to the General Accounting Office to label the American emergency care system “in crisis.”

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The biggest step in the history of global climate negotiations was taken in Paris in 2015 when nearly 200 countries agreed to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. The landmark climate agreement signals investors and firms that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will remain an integral part of the economy in the near future.

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A recent survey by ChannelAdvisor and Retailing Today shows that nearly half of the 347 manufacturers surveyed sell products from their own website, and 59% of them believe that most brands will sell directly to their customers in the future. Direct selling (also known as encroachment) can increase manufacturers’ profits by generating more sales and giving manufacturers a larger share of the margin. If ill managed, however, direct selling can cause substantial damage to supply chain relationships.

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A breakdown in the judiciary is a breakdown in the rule of law. And Italy's judiciary is breaking down. The World Bank ranks Italy 147th out of 189 countries in ease of enforcing contracts: it takes an estimated 3.25 years to enforce a contract in Italy, slightly less than Djibouti (3.35), and slightly more than Myanmar (3.18). The problem is only getting worse; the stock of pending civil cases increased by 10% from 2008 to 2010, and the average Italian civil case duration increased by 19% from 2010 to 2012. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) argues that the inefficiency of Italian courts leads to “reduced investments, slow growth, and a difficult business environment.”

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Recent years have witnessed the emergence of dynamically customized content recommendations. This online service allows media sites to direct users from articles they are currently reading to other Web-based content by providing a list of recommended links. In a world where millions of new articles surface daily, these recommendations are playing an increasingly important role in helping readers to navigate through the ocean of content, while publishers profit from additional readership and increased engagement.

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Planned obsolescence is nothing new: from early nylon stockings in the first half of the twentieth century to cheap photocopier components in the second half, manufacturers have designed products to wear out quickly and induce replacement purchases. This has long been well understood, as consumers do not much care how many of their neighbors own the same inexpensive but functional copier.

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Retail stores periodically have to close their doors for various reasons, from strategic shifts to underperformance and bankruptcy. Gap, for example, recently announced that it would close 175 stores in North America. Staples and Office Depot are shutting down hundreds of stores in anticipation of a potential merger. In early 2015, Target closed its 133 Canadian stores, and Radio Shack liquidated 1,700 stores. The list of retailers that have conducted large-scale store closings goes on and on: Best Buy, Borders, Circuit City, Home Depot, Montgomery Ward, Sears, Walgreens, and Woolworth. In addition, most other retailers close small portions of their stores annually.

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The annual delivery of influenza vaccine to the American public is hardly a straight shot from federal health officials to vaccine manufacturers to physicians to patients. A recurring and vexing part of the process is a supply-chain hitch that can leave patients waiting for flu shots even when the supply of the medicine is abundant.

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