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A Closed-Form Solution for the Production-Break Retrograde Method

Software/Hardware Track




This article explores and discusses concepts surrounding the multi-step retrograde analysis process for learning curve production breaks that was popularized by George Anderlohr, in his 1969 Industrial Engineering article “What Production Breaks Cost”. Mr. Anderlohr based much of his analysis using the cumulative average curve method, but the basic principles have been widely accepted and used to calculate the equivalent calculation using the unit theory learning curves. Because Mr. Anderlohr’s method is considered the standard for such calculations and because the method is relatively simple to perform, not much has been written to either simplify the process or to explain what appear to be anomalies in his methodology and other designated official sources such as that published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The article will briefly explore and answer the more vexing of the anomaly issues and then introduce a single closed-form equation to bypass the multi-step method which can save the cost analyst time and minimizes opportunities for trivial mathematical errors.


Darrell Hamilton
Defense Acquisition University
Darrell Hamilton is a Professor of Business Cost Estimating at the Defense Acquisition University (DAU); teaching most cost estimating courses offered by DAU. He also is currently the course manager for BCF215, Operating and Support Cost Analysis and is the primary author and course manager for a new course called Cost-Benefit Analysis for Army Programs. Prior to rejoining the government at the Missile Defense Agency in 2008 as a Senior Cost Analyst, he held various positions in industry such as Strategic Director of Project Management and Quality (Software Systems) for LabCorp, Managing Director of Marketing Automation at Trans World Airlines (TWA) and Project Manager of Operations Research Systems at TWA. Prior to his 13 year stint with industry, Darrell worked for the US Army TRADOC Analysis Command first as an officer and then as a contractor, developing cost-tradeoff and military war games (Vector-in-Commander (VIC) and TacWar). Mr. Hamilton has a Master of Science in Operations Research from the Naval Post Graduate School and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Georgia Tech. He is a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College and served 11 years on active duty as an officer in the US Army Chemical Corps.

Brian Gillespie
Missile Defense Agency
Dr. Brian A. Gillespie, Ph.D., is a Cost Estimator within the Missile Defense Agency Cost Estimating and Analysis Directorate (DOC) supporting the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS). In his life Dr. Gillespie has delivered papers, competed in bowling leagues, taught college calculus, coached introductory wushu, climbed mountains, and performed on a flute before an audience. Dr. Gillespie received his Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering Physics from the University of Virginia for his work researching the bond order potentials of group IV semiconductors. Dr. Gillespie was born and raised in northern Virginia. He, his wife and daughter reside in Colorado Springs, CO.