July 2012 | Sponsored | Thought Leaders

Improving Reverse Logistics Moves Shippers Forward

Tags: Reverse Logistics

Jeff Pepperworth is President, Supply Chain and Healthcare Networks, Inmar, 866-440-6917

Q: How can shippers improve their reverse
supply chain?

A: Amid today's higher fuel and transportation costs, technology becomes critical as companies search for efficiencies within the supply chain. The reverse supply chain has historically been viewed as a cost center and is often overlooked as a place where profit can be found.

In the reverse supply chain, product is often returned as an "each" rather than a full case, creating the need for systems to capture data at a more granular level. Even though goods are returned, they often still have value in the market. This creates the need to extract the value from returned and unsold product using technology to ensure the greatest yield.

In addition, efficiencies can be found within the supply chain by using a nationwide network of reverse logistics facilities and a highly skilled team of supply chain field analysts. This network reduces transportation and handling costs, as well as carbon footprint, which is important for cost savings and sustainability efforts.

Shipping returns to facilities closer to customer locations and retailer or manufacturer distribution centers helps achieve these efficiencies. Supply chain analysts in the field can monitor inbound shipments to provide valuable data for improving the supply chain and implementing changes to reduce damage.

Even more critical is how technology helps manage returns for highly controlled industries such as pharmaceuticals. A solid system with visibility and proper reporting can help mitigate risk for clients. Also, having strong technology in reverse logistics centers can provide limited touchpoints, automated sorting, and flexibility that allow monitoring and compliance with ever-changing government regulations.

In 2012, information is king. Web tools that provide retailers and manufacturers visibility into their supply chain are critical to continuous improvement. Developing tools such as watch lists and benchmarking helps trading partners make better business decisions by increasing the collaborative discussion between them. In today's environment, technology enables those collaborative discussions that are critical to improving the reverse supply chain.