Discrete Convex Analysis and Its Applications in Operations: A Survey

Xin Chen, Menglong Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Discrete convexity, in particular, (Formula presented.) -convexity and (Formula presented.) -convexity, provides a critical opening to attack several classical problems in inventory theory, as well as many other operations problems that arise from more recent practices, for instance, appointment scheduling and bike sharing. As a powerful framework, discrete convex analysis is becoming increasingly popular in the literature. This review will survey the landscape of the approach. We start by introducing several key concepts, namely, (Formula presented.) -convexity and (Formula presented.) -convexity and their variants, followed by a discussion of some fundamental properties that are most useful for studying operations models. We then illustrate various applications of these concepts and properties. Examples include network flow problem, stochastic inventory control, appointment scheduling, game theory, portfolio contract, discrete choice model, and bike sharing. We focus our discussion on demonstrating how discrete convex analysis can shed new insights on existing problems, and/or bring about much more simpler analyses and algorithm developments than previous methods in the literature. We also present several results and analyses that are new to the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1904-1926
Number of pages23
JournalProduction and Operations Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • appointment scheduling
  • bike sharing
  • discrete convexity
  • inventory management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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