Reverse logistics is still a mystery to many South African retailers and OEMs. Globally, however, it is common knowledge that managing returns is a vital part of the supply chain.

Way back in the 1980s American and European retailers, OEMs and third-party logistics firms started to realise that the supply chain was circular and that moving damaged or returned product backwards presented new challenges which traditional logistics providers were not equipped to deal with. In the three decades since then, the global reverse logistics industry has developed to the point where it is worth billions of dollars. South Africa is slow to catch on, but some of the biggest retailers have realised it’s an integral part of the supply chain and are putting budget into it.

Reverse logistics has global traction, but Africa’s still playing catch-up.

Global trends

The major players in the industry are Europe and America. The industry in Europe has been developed against a backdrop of strict continent-wide environmental laws and government policies on product returns, while the American industry has focussed more firmly on the bottom line.

These days Europe and the Americas have numerous firms specialising in all disciplines of reverse logistics which range from consulting on policy and procedural implementation through to legal product disposal and resale, while the industry in Asia (particularly Japan) and Australasia is similarly well developed.

The situation in Africa

South Africa has a long way to go to compete on an international scale in reverse logistics, but slowly manufacturers and retailers are understanding the huge competitive advantage to be gained by implementing solid and sustainable reverse logistics solutions in their organisations. These include:

  • Converting oversized returns rooms into lucrative retail space.
  • Reducing shrinkage through an up-to-the-minute database which makes sure you always know where everything is.
  • Ensuring that damaged products are repaired timeously.
  • Keeping track of which suppliers regularly supply faulty products and which stores aren’t implementing your returns policy properly.
  • Reducing overheads and improving profits.

Global industry associations come on board

There aren’t any formal industry associations on the African continent, so Revlogs decided to reach out to two of the world’s biggest. The Reverse Logistics Association and The Reverse Logistics and Sustainability Council both have their head offices in America but they are also involved in many reverse logistics projects and initiatives throughout Europe.

Craig Plowden has pioneered the African chapter of the Reverse Logistics Association. He is the chairman, while prominent industry experts from America and France feature on the committee. Just like the reverse logistics industry in our country, the African chapter of the RLA is in its infancy, but its existence alone signals how reverse logistics is taking a foothold on the continent.

Revlogs MD Craig Plowden has been in the returns management business long enough to see that the benefits of a streamlined returns process are far greater than one would initially assume. Give Craig Plowden a call on 011-608- 3968 (JHB); 021-934-2905 (CT); 031-700-5833 (KZN).

Revlogs offers a specialist returns management service which takes care of the entire process, from retrieving product from the retailer, through to repairing it or returning it to the OEM, and ensuring the new or repaired product is back in the retailer’s hands timeously to ensure the best possible customer service.