We know that the nature of Reverse Logistics is inherently more complex than the Forward systems of the supply chain — it is messy, untidy, and irregular. Over many years where our awareness and knowledge of the supply chain has become more holistic and future-reaching, Reverse Logistics has become a major factor in the life cycles of the supply chain and its designs. It is not a mere consequence of the Forward Logistics systems, a ‘cost’ of cleaning up and moving defunct product ‘away’ for the next batch of stock to be dealt with. It is much more than that. It is a system born from necessity. It deals with the end-life of products from the moment it leaves the point of the consumer.
It may be wild to claim so, but Reverse Logistics could be said to be more important than its Forward counterpart. It is burdened with the consequences of the supply chain when something goes wrong, when the system degrades or breaks down. Reverse Logistics has consequences and responsibility to the world of consumables and useables that impact the Forward Chain and the health of the supply chain life cycle as a whole.
Cycle Times and their Consistency
Circularity, the idea that supply chains should feed into themselves underpins Reverse Logistics. The more underdeveloped a supply chain’s circularity is, the longer and less sustainable the process of starting a new forward cycle. Particularly in supply chain cycles where it is essential to get back product to fix or refurbish, hand off periods that are not smoothly established can extend the cycle times of dealing with product. The longer the products dwell in the system the less value they will have. This is labour intensive and not cost effective. It is essential to have a dedicated Reverse Logistic system that can deal with this and create a consistent flow of management. It takes on the responsibility of the Forward chain and must deal with the irregularity that comes with a product’s end-life cycle. In doing so Reverse Logistics has an opportunity to shed light of how to protect product and its value and create consistent and more sustainable cycles.
The Forward Chain effects the Reverse
Reverse Logistics has a responsibility to pick up where the Forward Chain leaves off. Sustainability is often found to be built into the nature of Reverse Logistics; not just to sustain the patterns of the supply chain cycle but also to be responsible in the process of disposing and redistributing the product or debris that is left in the Forward Chain’s wake. When the design and processes of products are not considered in terms of its end-life, this becomes the responsibility of the Reverse Chain systems. Without the consideration of how a product degrades, pressure put on the Reverse Chain is increased and made more difficult, leaving the Reverse systems to be more responsible. This means that Reverse Logistics must adapt more quickly and smoothly to challenges in the system.
Regulations and Sustainability
With the growing emphasis and calls from governments to be more sustainable, Reverse Logistics has had to take on the responsibility of looking towards creating accountable solutions to the unique challenges the Forward Chain creates. The Forward Chain, rooted in established production cycles, often finds it cumbersome, timely and costly to change its practices. The Forward Chain does not look to take on or forecast the problems of products end-life requirements either. This means that Reverse Logistics bears the responsibility of keeping up with sustainability, laws, and their practices. Reverse Logistics also must understand the product requirements and its packaging to understand how to dispose of product responsibly under a country’s laws and regulations.
Reverse is a Space of Difference
The Forward Chain is built on the idea of creating a stable and standardized product. The fact is that once it leaves the producer and is put on a shelf, a myriad of situations can arise that are a threat to the product’s equity. In transit, in store or with the consumer, manufacturers must deal with product malfunction, damages or packaging problems. There may be a recall, expirations, or overstock and during peak times the year end-of-season merchandise can become a problem. In a perfect world, product supply chains would not break down, leave waste or create obsolescence. However, it is never simple to foresee the problems that may occur. This means that the Reverse Chain needs to deal with product and situations that are irregular and never uniform and often changing. This is where the Reverse Chain diverges from its Forward counterpart. It means that Reverse Logistics has a responsibility to understand and expect these things from the Forward Chain. Reverse Logistic stands as a different space, one that must be scalable and adaptable to all kinds of changes and situations.
Reverse Logistics has a responsibility to the brands that it works with. As product’s tell a story to their customers, Reverse Logistics completes that story – whether with customer service in returns policies or the ways in which it disposes of the product. Reverse Chains need to be mindful of how they handle product as to make sure that it is being responsible to the environments it works with but also to the people it works for. This means that great care needs to be taken to protect brands and their standing with customers.
Reverse Logistics creates a wealth of data as a consequence of its practices but can also be utilized in framing and shaping the supply chain cycle in more streamlined ways. It can be used to a great advantage, explaining where and when things are going wrong in the supply chain and even sometimes indicate how they can be fixed. Reverse Logistics also relies on efficiently using information to assist the Forward Chain and manufacturing to keep track of their processes. This means that through data, more responsible and sustainable practices can be pursued. It means that Reverse Logistics handles vastly more information, due to it considering the frameworks of the Forward Chain as well as the data created by its own practices. It is the responsibility of Reverse Logistics to protect that information but also use it wisely.
These are just some of the few responsibilities of Reverse Logistics and the Reverse Chain of practices. It is essential to work with a dedicated team who streamlines its methods to suit and cater to each product and situation individually. Reverse Logistics is essential in creating a healthy supply chain system that works for you and your customers.