Reverse Logistics in Supply Chain Management

The evolution of reverse logistics for manufactured products is developing in direct proportion to the rapid advancements in technology and the subsequent price erosion of products as new and improved products enter the supply chain at a faster pace. With such thin margins and so much competition, mismanagement of the supply chain can be devastating. Those organizations with the infrastructure to capture and compare the composite value of components with real time intelligent analysis and disposition based on changes in refurbishment cost, resale value, spare parts, repair and overall demand will not only become more profitable, but such flexibility and scalability will allow them to outmaneuver and eliminate the competition.

This is a case of modern Darwinism. It is survival of the fittest. It requires collaboration an integration within Supply Chain Logistics, or appear on the endangered species list. Even the mighty predator, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, was doomed to extinction by the constant progress of evolution. top 10 logistics Today, technology drives evolution at an astounding pace. The ability to capture, migrate, integrate and facilitate the intelligent analysis of data is akin to the invention of fire. This is what will separate the companies who can walk upright from the ones that will be stuck in the tar pits of slow response.

The early days of Reverse Logistics were measured by convenience and customer accommodations. The focus was on the front end of the return process, the ability for consumers to be able to return unwanted or defective merchandise. The ability to facilitate a consumer return was a courtesy that turned into a compelling competitive differentiator in retail. The companies that did not support consumer returns found themselves at a strategic disadvantage to those that did, and were eventually forced to adopt the same consumer conveniences or lose those customers to the competition.

It did not take long for retail merchants to seek the same concessions from manufacturers and distribution channels. Stock rotation became a normal condition of business, and processes for returning defective merchandise became standard practice. Although this is accepted as commonplace today, it has not always been this way. Even today there are cultural differences with regards to consumer returns, especially for product that is not defective and returned because of ‘customer remorse’.

As the cost of Reverse Logistics continued to increase, and as the methods of transportation became more sophisticated, manufacturers and distributors began to look for alternatives in transportation for savings. Planning and consolidating freight for return products was identified as a way to reduce expenses related to fuel and labor. This also led to detailed analysis of transportation options, like truck, air and railway. In Supply Chain Logistics business you are either the one driving the truck, the one pumping the gas, or the one paying the other two.

The next step in the evolution of Reverse Logistics was the experimentation and cost comparison between multiple local hubs and single consolidated returns centers. The simple analysis for savings contrasted the costs of warehouse space and manpower to the amount of freight and transportation fees for handling the back end of the Supply Chain. Other factors also played a significant role in the financial analysis, including volume, material costs and inventory controls.

As the costs of Reverse Logistics continued to rise, the importance of returning refurbished merchandise to market also became more significant. Organizations began to place financial significance on the devaluation of product for every day lost in transportation, handling, processing or warehousing. As technology and features improved, price and demand for aging product diminished, as did the ability to recoup costs from returns. Speed to return to market could be measured in resale value.