Everything You Need to Know About the Reverse Supply Chain

Blog post hero image

Adding ‘reverse’ next to ‘supply chain’ seems contradictory at first. 

Why would a business need to implement a supply chain, and then reverse it? Strange, right? 

It’s easy to focus 100% of your effort on the forward supply chain, but the ‘backward’ process is actually essential for many businesses. From organizing returns of faulty goods, to picking up empty packaging, or even collecting old household appliances and other used products – these are all activities that demand a streamlined and efficient reverse supply chain.  

Let’s dive right into the details. 

To navigate to the section which interests you the most, click below:

What Is a Reverse Supply Chain?

The reverse supply chain is a process that is almost opposite of a traditional supply chain, meaning the product moves from a customer back to a vendor/supplier/retailer. Reverse supply chain management includes pickups, disposing or cleaning, sorting, repackaging, restoring, and finally reshipping. By focusing on reverse logistics processes, a business is more robust to the complete customer lifecycle – which comes with serious benefits.

What Are the Benefits of a Robust Reverse Supply Chain System?

If you have identified that your business needs to introduce or improve an existing reverse supply chain, it’s worth looking into software that will make the whole process smoother – and smarter. 

The right addition, like advanced route optimization and scheduling software, can turn otherwise static and inflexible reverse supply chain processes into one that is robust and can be adapted to all of your unique business needs. These are just some of the benefits:

Less resource waste

Your reverse supply chain can be used in the same operations as your regular supply chain, meaning you can do multiple tasks with the same resources you had before. 

Having both pickups and deliveries on the same route will reduce mileage, and mean that you are fitting in more work into the regular work day. And, incorporating returns of reusable packaging (such as crates, if you deliver beer) is great for your business in a number of ways. 

You spend less money on packaging, less time and manpower is spent on ordering packaging, and the environmentally friendly approach  will score you brownie points with customers and help build loyalty. 

Better customer service

According to Supply Chain Quarterly, 1 in 5 of all items purchased are returned to the manufacturer. That means there’s a good chance that your customer will request a refund or exchange. 

How fast can you receive the original product and give the customer what they’ve asked for: an easy returns process? The faster that you can make this happen, the more likely a customer will have a positive experience. 

Dynamic Replanning means you can take a customer request for an exchange, see where your drivers are and quickly organize product returns to your depot or store – and get to the customer on the same day! With OptimoRoute taking care of your daily routing and scheduling, you’ll be able to insert jobs into existing schedules  and seamlessly handle returns management.

Being able to offer this sort of service will give you an edge over competitors too.    

Reduce your operational costs by 30%
Increase delivery capacity by 43%
Plan 7x faster

Start your free 30-day trial

New avenues of revenue

By having the capability run an efficient supply chain at the same time as a reverse supply chain – or swap between the two based on the season – you’re empowering your business to be incredibly flexible, and ultimately profitable all year long. 

Like the icecream delivery company King of Pops that, come winter, introduces a Christmas tree delivery and pick up service

How to Incentivize Customers to Work in Tandem With Your Reverse Supply Chain

There’s no point having an optimized and efficient reverse logistics process if your customers can’t experience the convenience that it offers. And, increasing the amount of high-quality face-to-face interactions with your customers gives you more opportunity to impress!

Here are some ways of encouraging customers to be a part of the reverse supply chain:   

1. Instead of mail-in returns/exchanges – offer to pick up goods

When customers want to return or exchange a product, offer free pickup instead of paying for mail service. 

This expedited asset recovery allows your team to find an optimal time to come and pick up an order along their way, and OptimoRoute’s route optimization software slots these jobs without compromising the efficiency of the entire route. Not to mention that customers will LOVE not having to head off to the post office to return their item! 

2. Go for reusable/refillable products 

Many services, such as food delivery and water bottle refills can use reusable/refillable packaging. 

Why not integrate the pick up process into your overall supply chain? It’s one more touchpoint with a customer to drive loyalty through great service. 

Scheduling is simple, because it’s easy to indicate whether a job is a delivery or pickup. If the items you are collecting are large or heavy, OptimoRoute also lets you plan in accordance with the capacity of each vehicle. 

3. Offer a collection service of old and bulky items

If you are already delivering new products such as appliances, furniture, mattresses or any other bulky items, offer to take the item that the customer is replacing. The added customer service could be your differentiator in a competitive market. 

And the potential is there – just consider the fact that in 2007 only 18% of all computers were recycled, but thanks to reverse supply chains the amount went up to 40% within six years. However, trying to control this process with manual planning would give you a confusing mess. But, with OptimoRoute this reverse supply chain would be easy to manage and wouldn’t be a burden on your resources. 

Are You Ready for a Reverse Supply Chain That Excels?

With route optimization software like OptimoRoute to support you, efficient reverse logistics is within reach. To make your business more responsive, flexible, and customer focused with a high-performing reverse supply chain, start your free 30-day trial today.  

Try OptimoRoute for Free

No installation or credit card required