Take It Back: Why Managing Returns Doesn’t Have to be Complicated

In the logistics industry, perhaps more than any other, there are numerous variables to deal with on any given day. As a manager, you understand exactly how your operations work and are able to keep things running smoothly even when something goes awry. But there’s one aspect of every logistics business that proves incredibly difficult to predict and even more challenging to address: customer returns.

The reverse supply chain, especially in consumer-facing operations, proves puzzling even for some of the industry’s most seasoned professionals. That’s because products can be returned at any time without warning for a multitude of reasons—from incorrect color or sizing, to spoiled goods, to general dissatisfaction and more. The major questions are:

  1. How should these products be received back into your warehouse?
  2. What should be done with them once they arrive?

It’s easy to let these items pile up haphazardly in a makeshift holding area. In the hustle of daily operations, sometimes this seems like the most logical (or expedient) solution, but it can actually be detrimental to your inventory. For instance, these holding areas are oftentimes not monitored as carefully as the rest of the facility, leaving them susceptible to fluctuations in temperature, pest invasion and other calamities. If an otherwise reusable stack of clothing products becomes infested by bed bugs, that’s essentially a stack of lost profit for your business.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Managing the reverse supply chain can be made simple with just a few organizational changes. Take the following steps to optimize your returns processes and protect your inventory from bed bugs and any other dangers that crop up:

Establish a Designated Returns Area

This is absolutely crucial and marks the most important step you should take to fortify your returns against harm. Returned items should be moved immediately to this specified area, which should be entirely separate from the loading dock so the items aren’t confused with any other shipments.

Reduce Clutter as Much as Possible

As returns pile in, many companies have a difficult time figuring out what to do with them. This inaction can lead to a mess of boxes and parcels being stacked in a temporary holding area, which is never ideal. Keep things moving as often as possible, funneling all returns to the predetermined holding area swiftly upon arrival. In the midst of unorganized chaos, your products are all the more likely to be lost, mishandled or sabotaged by bed bugs and other pests.

Keep Your Employees in the Loop

Inform your associates clearly and openly about which items should be discarded and which should be returned to inventory. Some items are simply not reusable, while others may be sold again with no issues. The process for distinguishing between these resalable and non-resalable goods will differ between companies depending on the type of products handled, but employees should be highly familiar with the criteria for making such decisions.

When it comes to reverse supply chain management, taking the proper precautions can save you and your team from lost time and paralyzing frustration. Follow the steps above to protect your returned products and ultimately your bottom line.