In this talk, we review new theory that explains the effectiveness of sparse flexibility design in any finite size manufacturing network. Under stochastic demand, we establish two fundamental properties of sparse designs, a supermodularity property and a decomposition property. These properties are then used to provide the first theoretical justification for several well-known observations in the process flexibility literature, and to derive new insights into designing flexible processes in large systems.
Under worst-case demand, we propose the plant cover index and establish its relation with the worst-case sales. Applying this relation, we demonstrate the effectiveness of a certain sparse design, called the long chain. Finally, we discuss the combination of process flexibility and strategic inventory as an effective disruption mitigation strategy.