Industry Focus Week: Reverse Logistics

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

We’d like to kick off April with our Industry Focus Week post on reverse logistics. You may have seen lots of news in the past little while about the benefits of reverse logistics, and how emphasizing strategies on reverse logistics is a good thing. But what exactly is reverse logistics? We thought that this month we would focus on answering that question for our readers.

What is Reverse Logistics?

According to The Council of Logistics Management, the official definition of reverse logistics is:

The process of planning, implementing, and controlling the efficient, cost effective flow of raw materials, in-process inventory, finished goods and related information from the point of consumption to the point of origin for the purpose of recapturing value or proper disposal. More precisely, reverse logistics is the process of moving goods from their typical final destination for the purpose of capturing value, or proper disposal. Remanufacturing and refurbishing activities also may be included in the definition of reverse logistics.

In layman’s terms, reverse logistics is essentially all logistics operations related to reusing products and materials. Contrary to normal logistics processes, which focuses on bringing products towards the customer (i.e. origin to destination), reverse logistics goes at least one step back in the supply chain. For example, having products or goods move from the customer to the manufacturer or distributor. The process of reverse logistics creates its own challenges, as certain factors can affect how goods can be taken backwards through the supply chain cycle (e.g. cross-border issues), hence the importance of creating a proper reverse logistics structure.

Looking at its most salient model, reverse logistics in the retail industry is the process by which customers return their products.

Why Is Reverse Logistics Important?

The importance of reverse logistics is mostly based on industry, but the average manufacturer spends 9-15% of total revenue on returns. It can be seen by certain companies as a hidden cost, but it can be a very real one based on industry and involves processes where vendors convert liabilities into either reduced liabilities or viable assets (i.e. it’s more than just warranty and basic logistics processes).

Industries involved in retail are obviously the most affected by reverse logistics risk management, as 95% of customers will not buy from a company if they have a bad returns experience. Thus, focusing on reverse logistics is an important, and sometimes unseen, customer service opportunity that many businesses have yet to properly leverage. US-based experts have suggested that companies with best-in-class reverse logistics capabilities average a 12% advantage in customer satisfaction, which leads to better retention and a higher rate of return (customers).

Process Improvement Strategies

Reverse Logistics Magazine released a great list of reverse logistics elements that can be modified and improved for optimizing the reverse supply chain:

  • Gate keeping
  • Compacting Disposition Cycle Time
  • Reverse Logistics Information Systems
  • Central Return Centers
  • Zero Returns
  • Remanufacture and Refurbishment
  • Asset Recovery
  • Negotiation
  • Financial Management
  • Outsourcing

They also highlighted the importance of updating warehouses with reverse gear. This essentially focuses on equipping warehouses with the capability to accept returns, process, repair, and replace products coming in through the reverse supply chain cycle. So if your company involves any form of reverse logistics, these factors can be the difference of having your end step (i.e. customers) experience improved.

That’s it for us this week! If you liked this blog post, why not subscribe to our blog? If you’re interested in what we do as a 3rd party logistics provider, don’t hesitate to check out our services (as expressed above, we are very pro finding you the lowest total cost!). We’re also in the twittersphere, so give us a follow to get the latest logistics and supply chain news!

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