Reverse Logistics as an Integral Part of Supply Chain Management

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Most of us think of logistics as a one-way street. Products are manufactured, packaged, stored in a warehouse, sold, and then shipped off to the customer ... end of story. Yet for many logistics managers today, that's not the end of the story. In addition to managing outbound goods, they also are responsible for reverse logistics--the flow of returned goods and packaging, including customer service and final disposition of returned items.

The need to manage waste materials and returned goods is growing in all kinds of industries. Today, companies like Xerox, Mobil, Home Depot, and Ethan Allen Furniture - to name just a few - have recycling programs that meet the needs of their individual industries. There are many
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A solution for many companies that have limited resources for reverse logistics is outsourcing that function to third parties or transportation companies. It's up to the shipper, though, to examine the cost and service benefits, then decide how much of the process should be outsourced. "As with any outsourcing decision, it's a matter of being able to focus on your core competencies and freeing up your people to work on products rather than expend your assets on [reverse logistics]," suggests Brett Chyatte, senior marketing specialist for reverse logistics at Federal Express. Components

The primary components of the reverse-logistics operation are retrieval, transportation, and disposition. The retrieval stage deals with where the waste or products should be picked up and by whom. Much depends on the nature of the item being returned; if it's clothing, for example, a carrier can handle all of the pickup and documentation tasks at the consumer's door.

If, on the other hand, the items are oversized, heavy, hazardous, or very delicate, special training may be necessary for both customers and carriers. Burnham, for example, dismantles photocopiers for several customers that sell or lease the reconditioned machines. Drivers are trained to remove internal components that could cause damage in transit, protect glass, secure all moving

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