Forecasting - Getting Your Supply Chain Forecasting on Track in 2021Supply chain forecasting is the difference between data-driven decision-making and floundering in the dark—here’s how companies can ensure theirs is as good as can be in 2021.

Prior to the pandemic, companies had a bit of wiggle room in regards to their forecasting. Despite being important, a relatively stable market meant they didn’t have to be on the cutting edge. Instead, they could largely rely on historical trends to shape the management of their inventory. Then everything changed. Forecasting was made more critical than ever in an unpredictable 2020. With COVID-19 related disruptions persisting, it’s crucial that companies that were lagging behind give their forecasting procedures a much-needed update.

A Forbes article on improving forecasting explains,

If legacy forecasting models were out of date before, they’re practically obsolete now. In 2020, it became clear that the old models cannot keep up with the shifting demands of a highly interconnected global economy.

This article by Morai Logistics breaks down what companies should be doing to make sure their supply chain forecasting is as effective as possible.

No More Legacy Models

As you might’ve guessed given the above quote, legacy forecasting models have to go. They’re outdated and bear little relevance to consumer behaviour today. What’s more, they present a number of vulnerabilities that are difficult to combat without modernization. These include: data silos, inflexibility, blind spots, and more.

Utilizing New Data is Key

2020 was a game-changer. Consumer behaviour was as unpredictable as its ever been. As such, relying solely on data that came prior to, or even during, the year is going to lead to poor results. In order to overcome this, companies need to look outside of their own data. Not only that, but also to have as many points of data as possible.

As a McKinsey article from late last year emphasizes,

Because the market has changed so much from the prepandemic status quo, using a company’s historical data to forecast a trendline won’t work. Developing an accurate forecast requires building a new baseline based on the external data that affects a company’s business. This approach allows companies to build models by combining proprietary historical and pipeline volumes with hundreds of external data points…

Prepare for Multiple Outcomes

One of the many things that hurt supply chains last year was a lack of agility. Often faced with the need to pivot and change their operations, companies stalled rather than proceeded. Ensuring flexibility in the planning process goes a long way towards preparing supply chains for whatever’s to come. In order to do this, forecasting should be applied to a wide range of possibilities. In turn, companies can then come up with a game plan for a large variety of outcomes and have protocols in place to smoothly pivot as necessary.

Time for Intelligent Forecasting

Ultimately, companies have to make their forecasting as intelligent as possible. As supply chains get increasingly digitized, it only makes sense that their forecasting should too. This means forecasting should be a part of larger interconnected, fully integrated supply chain system. A system which consolidates all company data, presents it holistically, offers a real-time view of all segments of the supply chain, and utilizes the latest in artificial intelligence and machine learning to gain the most accurate insights possible. Forecasting, in the midst of this digital landscape, can then be lead by the best data available.

COVID-19 and the Future of Supply Chain - What to ExpectCOVID-19 has forever altered the supply chain—here are several ways in which supply chains are reorienting themselves going forward.

The pandemic has dramatically impacted supply chains, and that, in turn, has led to dramatic transformation. The past year has seen developments in the supply chain at speeds never seen before. As should be expected, not all the things supply chains are doing now are greatly divergent from what they were doing before.

Rather, top supply chains have embraced a combination of best practices, old a new. In some areas, they’ve simply placed a change in emphasis in their operations. In others, they’ve sped up processes that they already had underway. With that said, it’s important to review what supply chains are doing now, to what degree that they are different than before, and how companies hope to see them look soon.

This article by Morai Logistics outlines the numerous changes supply chains are experiencing and the ways in which they’ll look different in the future.

A New Focus

In a pre-pandemic world, while still potentially risky, focusing on making a supply chain as lean as possible made some sense. In a world shaken by disruption, it no longer does. Of course, having minimal waste in a supply chain remains important, but resilience and, by extension, agility is a great deal more.

As such, companies are now trying their utmost to make their supply chains agile. Sufficiently so to respond to whatever unforeseen hurdles come their way. This means being able to pivot quickly and effectively, without impeding their operations. What arises from this kind of flexibility and responsiveness is a resilience to unpredictable external pressures.

A Different Approach with Suppliers

One of the most notable vulnerabilities that COVID-19 highlighted is the reliance on single suppliers. When many of these suppliers were rendered near-useless by the pandemic, supply chains were left scrambling. Thus companies have been combating this shortcoming.

This has included them diversifying their supplier base, taking on a “China plus one” strategy in order to no longer have dependence on China, as well as considering moving away from overly globalized supply chains and moving to regional ones. It’s yet to be seen how significant any move away from China or more globalized supply chains will be. Nonetheless, diversification certainly has seen greater traction than before.

Visibility and Transparency Only Grow More Important

As mentioned earlier, many of the most important areas of concern for supply chains now were already getting plenty of attention prior to the onset of COVID-19. Two of those are visibility and transparency. In large part, they’re getting even more notice now because they can reveal risk.

An article by Supply Chain Management Review offers insights from a recent supply chain strategy survey,

Manufacturing executives are taking prudent steps to manage risk in their supply chains, with strengthening relationships and increasing transparency with suppliers and buyers … In addition, the vast majority (92%) are taking at least some action to create more visibility within their supply chains, including requiring more information on suppliers’ own risk management and continuity strategies.

Innovation is Central

The advantages that come with technology have always been something that companies have looked to. Yet, now, companies are adopting technologies which they were once simply showing interest in. Or, adopting technologies that they were already planning to, just faster than before. In short, they’re acting  quickly. Automation, softwares for supply chain management, or tools for visibility and real-time tracking. They’re all seeing greater usage in supply chains than before.

The Modern Warehouse - 5 Ways They Have EvolvedThe warehouse has undergone significant change in recent times—here are the 5 most significant ways in which it has evolved.

The supply chain has changed drastically over the years. With evolving customer demands and corresponding technological and logistical advancements to match them, it’s in a state of continual progress. No piece of the supply chain embodies that progress more than the warehouse.

As such, warehouses have seen monumental development recently. This development has come, in large part, due to the e-commerce boom that has characterized the 2010’s. With the rise of e-commerce has come a number of pressures, often stemming from warehouses having to accommodate greater demand. So, just how has warehousing altered itself in order meet these new challenges?

This ebook highlights 5 of the most prominent ways in which the warehouse has transformed in recent years.

What Does the Modern Warehouse Look and How has it Changed?

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That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? Interested in our 3rd party logistics services? If so, don’t hesitate to check out our services . We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.

Supply Chain Technology - 5 Indicators That it's Time for an UpdateThe speed at which technology within the supply chain progresses is, at times, hard to keep up with—here are 5 key signs that a supply chain needs to modernize. 

Technological advancements are taking place in the supply chain all the time. In light of the transformative nature of the past year, staying abreast of those advancements is more important than its ever been. A technologically modern supply chain is what stands between a company running smoothly regardless of external pressures and it being crippled by every disruption it faces.

This article by Morai Logistics covers 5 of the most significant indicators that reveal that a supply chain needs updating in terms of its technology.

Transportation Costs are too High

One of the main issues supply chains face when they’re suffering from a lack modernization is high transportation costs. These high transportation costs, is turn, limit profits. The reason that they’re a mark of out of date technology is because now transportation management softwares exist. With them, companies are able to greatly improve the efficiency of their transportation processes, reducing costs.

As a post from BluJay Solutions explains,

You already know that transportation takes up a big chunk of doing business. Cutting and controlling these costs is a key to surviving and thriving. A modern transportation management system, such as BluJay’s Transportation Management, leverages data to help make better decisions in the moment and works over time to pinpoint opportunities for long-term savings.

Struggling with Visibility

The modern supply chain has visibility throughout its operations. With fully integrated supply chains, smart sensors, data being collected continuously for real-time insights, and so much more, companies now have the ability to always have a view of all stages of their supply chain. Moreover, this means they’re able to give their customers precise updates about their deliveries. Thus, if companies find themselves having trouble meeting their customers’ expectations as a result of not being able to provide them regular shipment information, it’s a strong suggestion that they’re lagging behind.

Having Difficulty Taking Advantage of Opportunities

Often, as the market changes, new opportunities arise. However, to sufficiently take advantage of them, quick and flexible responsivity is required in the supply chain. If a company finds itself repeatedly having trouble pulling the trigger in time, it needs overhauling. Similarly, if it doesn’t have the infrastructure to pivot to even attempt to address the opportunity, it needs a revamp. What these failings point to is a supply chain that lacks agility. Agility that comes hand in hand with technological proficiency.

Difficulty Dealing with Pre-existing Technology and Data

The integration and consolidation of data is critical to the smooth function of an up to date supply chain. It is crippling to a supply chain to be run with old digital tools that can’t interact with each other. They lead to information silos and are difficult to utilize competently. What’s more, even if the tools are used, they are limited in their scope and applicability.

An article by Supply Chain 24/7 lays out this regrettable scenario,

Only two people in the world understand your system, and they’re both about to retire. Hopefully you aren’t still relying on legacy, custom-configured technology, because if you are, odds are the people that built it will be retiring soon. Take a proactive approach to sunsetting the technology before the people who understand it aren’t around to maintain it, and you’re left with a system that could become a black box with your data locked inside.

Inventory Management Shortcomings

Very much like transportation costs, high inventory costs are also a strong sign that a supply chain needs upgrading. By having the earlier mentioned technologically augmented visibility to keep track of incoming shipments, companies can stay well stocked. On the other hand, without visibility, inventory management becomes an imprecise and costly operation.

Top 10 Supply chain trends for 2021 - Part 2After such a hectic and transformative year for the supply chain, 2021 is finally around the corner—here are the biggest trends to keep an eye on going forward.

So much has changed in the world of supply chain over the previous 12 months. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chains were forced to dramatically reorient themselves in order to survive. In a landscape altered by such a global event, which is still actively impacting the running of supply chains today, the changes are going to continue going into next year. Last week, we highlighted the first five most significant trends we are anticipating in the near future. Yet, there remain many more movements in the supply chain to watch out for.

This article by Morai Logistics completes the top ten trends that will shape supply chains in 2021.

Increases in Third-Party Logistics (3PLs)

Companies are always looking for ways to reduce the cost of their supply chains. If they can do so while improving its quality then all the better. Next year should see more companies looking to third-party logistics in order bring down costs, delivery times, and improve customer service.

An article from Finances Online further explains,

Partnering up with third-party services can help companies reduce costs while improving customer service. For instance, more businesses will integrate and start to offer inland services, reducing overall freight costs, and streamlining the supply chain. Integrations are particularly useful for shippers who often use a combination of sea and land transportation for their products. With integrated services, delivery times become shorter, and customer service improves.

An Elastic Logistics Surge

What’s become clear with the monumental disruption that the pandemic has brought is that supply chain efficiency isn’t enough. In order for supply chains to be able to survive in the current climate, as well as be resilient against further disruptions down the line, they have to be flexible and adaptable enough to deal with whatever fluctuations the market brings them. This more malleable approach is elastic logistics. Logistics made to make supply chains responsive enough to shape themselves around demand.

Further Adoption of IoT

As mentioned in Part 1, visibility throughout the supply chain is one of the highest priorities for companies. A large part of that effort to achieve such visibility is via the continued adoption of IoT devices. Certainly, IoT has already become a prominent part of supply chains. Yet, that prominence is set to grow even further, as companies look to IoT technology like sensors to give a complete and continuous view of their operations.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Driven Automation

Automation comes in many forms. One of those forms (automated robots) was covered in Part 1. Another kind of automation that is becoming increasingly critical to the supply chain is automation facilitated by AI. One of the main reasons AI is playing such a big role in automation is that it can automate certain supply chain processes via algorithms based off previously collected data. This means the removal of human error and, thus, boosted efficiency.

Agility will be Paramount

Finally, as suggested in the Elastics Logistics section, there has been something of a realignment of supply chains this year. Supply chains can no longer prioritize being lean over everything else. With ongoing, and the possibility of future, large scale disruption hanging over supply chains, it’s become clear that agility comes before everything else. An agile supply chain means a supply chain that is able to quickly adjust its operations to respond to market pressures. That’s the supply chain of the future.

Top 10 Supply Chain Trends for 2021 - Part 1As a tumultuous year marked by supply chain disruption comes to an end, eyes turn to 2021—so what are the biggest trends to watch out for heading into next year?

It’s been a year of incredible turmoil and, subsequently, change. This has been especially true in the world of supply chain. Supply chains were hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and were made to aggressively transform their operations in order to survive. As such, the year has seen them experience digitization at a rate unlike ever before. Moreover, their has been a strategic pivot from efficiency at all costs, to agility in order to bolster resilience. Now, as a new year fast approaches, the question becomes: how will these many changes shape supply chains going forward?

This article by Morai Logistics highlights 5 trends that will influence supply chains in 2021.

Environmentally Responsible Supply Chains

The push for green supply chains has been strong for years, and next year will be no different. More than ever before, customers expect the companies that they buy from to be responsible in regards to the environment. Not only that, a majority of them are willing to pay more in order to support products that are.

Thus, by taking their supply chains green, companies not only work towards bettering the environment but also gain more loyal customers. Not only that, but it has the added benefit of positively affecting company culture and reducing waste, improving profit margins.

The Automation of Robots

Automation and robotics have been tremendous forces of productivity in the supply chain in recent times. As automated robots are able to uniquely assist various sections of the supply chain, they’ve staked a claim for being a required component of quality supply chains. With that in mind, it’s hardly surprising that their adoption will only continue at higher rates than before in the future.

An article from Finances Online provides an overview of many of the most valuable capabilities of automated robotics,

More companies today are using drones and driverless vehicles to streamline logistics operations. Companies and consumers can expect drones to become fully capable of making deliveries of small goods. Self-driving cars are also likely to be more advanced by 2020 … In warehouses, autonomous mobile robots will see more use in speeding up menial, labor-intensive tasks … robots can drastically improve the supply chain’s productivity.

Blockchain Growth

Blockchain technology, despite a lot of buzz, has seen slow adoption. Given the many concerns around it, including whether it’s truly scalable in its utility, the hesitation has been understandable. Yet, as visibility remains a major priority for companies, the technology is becoming hard to deny. More and more, companies are viewing it as a central piece in their supply chain visibility. With this being the case, blockchain saw considerable growth this year, and that growth should continue in 2021.

Emphasis on Transparency

Tied to both sustainability and visibility, is supply chain transparency. Customers want to know the consequences of a company’s supply chain when buying its products. These consequences range from their environmental impact to their working conditions. In response to this, companies are looking to find ways (including the aforementioned blockchain technology) to give customers a transparent view of their supply chain operations and their outcomes.

A Globalized Workforce

The workforces of companies are changing. Already research shows that 80% of manufacturers have multinational operations as of this year. The main reason for this comes down to skills. Companies have skill gaps that they have to address, and limiting workforces to a single country hurts their ability to gain access to that necessary skilled labour. With this being the case, the multinational workforce trend will remain strong in 2021.

The Digital Transformation Imperative in a Post-COVID 19 WorldThe world has changed and the supply chain has changed with it—here’s why digital transformation has been central to that change in a year dominated by a pandemic. 

Supply chains have had to adapt in number ways in response to COVID-19. However, no change in supply chains has been more prominent than the speed at which they’ve conducted digital transformation. Digital efforts which might’ve otherwise taken years to come to fruition, have taken a small fraction of that time. What this highlights is just how important digitization has been for supply chains and their survival during this time.

With that in mind, an obvious question arises. That question being: what about digital transformation makes it so critical to supply chain health? Even more specifically, what about it allows supply chains to combat the most disruptive effects of the pandemic? While there might be too many byproducts of digitization to name, it’s worthwhile outlining the most significant benefits it brings in regards to overcoming the pandemic in order to answer those questions.

This ebook covers the main ways in which digital transformation is helping supply chains deal with COVID-19 and remain resilient going forward.

Why has Digital Transformation Become Undeniable with the Onset of COVID-19?
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That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? Interested in our 3rd party logistics services? If so, don’t hesitate to check out our services . We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news.

The Top 6 Supply Chain Trends in the Year of COVID-19After a year dominated by a pandemic, many of the anticipated trends heading into 2020 have been reconsidered—here are 6 to be mindful of going forward.

The supply chain has experienced more disruption and subsequent evolution than any time in recent history. As a result of COVID-19, companies have had to reevaluate the state of their supply chains and make the necessary adjustments to make them thrive in a time of great uncertainty. What that means is that many expectations as to the state of supply chains this year have had to have been thrown out and replaced. And, while certain shifts in the supply chain have been long anticipated, they nonetheless require reexamining for how they’ve unfolded.

This article by Morai Logistics presents 6 of the most prominent trends in supply chain today.

Agility is More Important Than Ever

As important as forecasting is, it’s agility that’s gained greater attention over the course of this year. If this pandemic has demonstrated anything, it’s that supply chains can’t always anticipate the market. With that being the case, it’s critical that supply chains be agile (and flexible) enough to respond quickly to fluctuating demands.

Blockchain Gains Traction

Blockchain has been a technology that for years has gained attention and displayed promise. Yet, despite that being the case, reservations around its viability have remained and adoption rates have remained low. While the pandemic hasn’t radically changed that, it has once again highlighted the value (specifically, transparency and security) of the technology. As such, it has garnered renewed interest.

Sustainability is a Must

The demand for sustainability has been building for many years. COVID-19 has done little to dampen that demand. Simply put, sustainability within the supply chain is quickly becoming something that is no longer optional.

An article from Manufacturing.net expounds,

For example, 66 percent of millennials are more likely to patronize a company with sustainable and eco-friendly culture. Furthermore, brands that advocate for sustainability grow 5.6 times faster than brands that don’t.

Big Data Remains Critical

Supply chains need to be intelligent to succeed. As self evident as that is, the route to intelligence is multifaceted. One key facet is data. Data is the lifeblood of intelligence. Thus, the more data a supply chain has to work with (given the right tools), the more precise it can be with its intelligence. That precise intelligence, in turn, helps combat the many disruptions that supply chains might face.

AI Continues its Ascent

Tied closely to big data is artificial intelligence and its subsets (such as machine learning). Another critical component of an intelligent supply chain is having the right tools in place to utilize data. No tool is quite as robust and varied as AI. From forecasting to automation, its uses are as wide as they are advantageous.

The previously mentioned Manufacturing.net post explains,

By 2019 end, 37 percent of organizations had implemented AI, and in 2020 the numbers are poised to grow. Businesses that make use of AI technology in their supply chain have seen improvements. Such improvements include inventory management, staff productivity, supplier selection process, and customer experience.

Omnichannel is the new Standard

Finally, given the impact the pandemic has had on physical patronage, the need for omnichannel fulfillment has only increased.  What’s more, at this point, quality customer experience is nearly synonymous with omnichannel service. Customers desire seamless service, where what’s physical and digital no longer need to be clearly distinguished. This is even more so the case with the onset COVID-19. It’ driving an unprecedented number of customers online, with physical interactions having been reduced to a minimum.

Building a Strong Supplier Relationship - The 5 EssentialsThere’s never been a more important time to have strong supplier relationships—here are the 5 key indicators showing that they are on the right track.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply chain landscape has changed. Companies have seen their supply chains disrupted at a scale unlike anything witnessed in a long time. With that said, there are a number of steps companies should be trying to take for the sake of overcoming the impediments that comes with a global pandemic.

One of the most significant among them being strengthening their supplier relationships. Whether these relationships are new or old, what matters is that they display mutual value. In this trying time, it’s as critical as it’s ever been that companies build something with their suppliers that lays a foundation for a resilient supply chain. For now and the future.

This article by Morai Logistics highlights the 5 most significant markers of a strong supplier relationship.

Mutual Respect

No relationship can be long lasting in its success without a feeling of respect going both ways. Part of this respect will come from a company’s and a supplier’s reputation. If they’re both in good standing, a degree of underlying respect will emanate from that. However, respect is also a mindset. If supply chain leaders don’t go into talks with their suppliers with integrity, even a healthy reputation might not be enough to keep the respect from diminishing in the relationship.

Collaboration

Collaboration plays an integral role in supply chain success. As such, it’s no surprise that that extends to suppliers as well. It doesn’t matter how strong a supply chain is independent of its suppliers. Nor does it matter how reliable a supplier is if they aren’t aligned with their customers. Companies and their suppliers have to have a shared vision.

It is only through that collective vision that each party can get the most out of their relationship. What’s more, by not allowing the relationship to devolve into a back and forth struggle, a company’s supply chain efficiency goes up considerably.

Transparency

Communication is central to a healthy relationship. As obvious as that might be, what’s a little less so is how to go about communicating effectively. Perhaps the most vital component for doing so is transparency. In no small part it’s important because it shows respect, which, as mentioned earlier, plays a huge role in a healthy relationship. It also shows trust, good faith, and a great deal more.

The following from an article by Supply Chain Dive explains,

Transparency means full disclosure of any obstacles, intentions, limitations and issues you’ve discovered — in-house or anywhere in the supply chain — as soon as possible. It’s also productive to offer, in good faith, to work together to fix them.

Technological Investment

Supply chains always need to be innovating. Now as much as ever before. Moreover, that innovation has to be holistic. That means including suppliers in any advancements that are being engineered. Investing in the latest and greatest in technology together is not only mutually beneficial from the standpoint of what the technology brings. An added positive that arises from it is that it creates a sense of shared prosperity.

Attend to Yourself First

Finally, perhaps the most straightforward mark of a strong supplier relationship comes with internal competency and success. After all, if a company is profitable to work with and gives a supplier a competitive edge, then that’s as strong a reason as any as to why a supplier will want to continue working with them. The same is true the other way around, in the case of a highly successful supplier. In success, a stronger relationship is formed organically.

Reverse Logistics - The 5 Keys to a Successful StrategyReverse logistics isn’t something most companies relish and as a result is often overlooked, but if handled with the right care, it’s what gives a modern supply chain the competitive edge.

Of the many areas of a supply chain that get attention, reverse logistics is certainly an area amongst those that gets the least. It’s entirely understandable. Most companies focus on getting their goods to the consumer as opposed to getting those goods back. Nonetheless, it’s become critical for modern supply chains. Quality reverse logistics isn’t just about adding anther element of value to a supply chain, it’s it’s making sure it stays competitive in the future.

This article by Morai Logistics covers 5 steps companies should be taking in order to make their reverse logistics process more successful.

Figure out the why Behind Returns

Returns shouldn’t be a mindless process. They’re costly, and it’s up to supply chain managers to figure out why they’re happening. With the right approach, they can be turned from a cost to a benefit—an opportunity to improve. That improvement can come from a number of areas as the reason for the returns can stem from different places. Predominantly, they’ll be a consequence of an issue in the return policy or a product. As such, addressing this root issue is not only a cost-saving measure but a way to better understand the customer.

Have a Simple Return Policy

Make the process of returning as easy as buying. Customers are typically able to buy something online in the space of seconds. As a result, they expect the process of returning to be equally quick and simple. Not meeting this expectation leads to dissatisfied customers. Thus, it’s important to have a return policy that is both easy to understand but also straightforward to follow. Not only does this help your customers, it also helps your customer service team.

Make Sure Return Labels Come with the Packaging

Little things go a long way. In line with making returning easy, is the incredible value in ensuring return labels come with packaging. The benefits of this match that of having a simple return policy (happier customers and customer service team). However, they don’t stop there. A return label improves overall supply chain efficiency, as it allows for products to be returned quickly.

As this Supply Chain Brain article on reverse logistics, and return labels in particular, explains,

It can then be placed on a sticker that the customer can simply peel off and pop onto the product for a hassle-free return. Not only does this help the customer, but it also gets the product back to the seller much more quickly, improving the efficiency of the entire process.

Track Returns

At this point in time, it’s become apparent that having a high degree of visibility throughout a supply chain is vital to its success. That visibility should extend to reverse logistics. With that in mind, it’s critical that, in the same way monitoring systems are used for product deliveries, they should equally be implemented for returns. By doing this, companies can evaluate the treatment of their goods. Moreover, they can use this evaluation to see if any of their goods need fixing and if the handling of their product on returns is adequate.

Don’t Neglect the Right Technology

Finally, there’s the technological component of returns. As previously stated, reverse logistics is a key part of the supply chain. It can be seen as its final step. Hence, the same way in which the modern supply chain requires digitization, it then follows that so does reverse logistics.

The previously mentioned Supply Chain Brain article elabourates,

A transportation-management system (TMS) and warehouse-management system (WMS) allow for greater efficiency over the course of a reverse logistics operation. These applications combine to keep you in the know about where a product is, while always maintaining the correct documentation.