February 28, 2012

TMS can help manage product returns

Transportation management systems (TMS) aren't just for ordinary outbound and inbound traffic, says a software executive. They can help manage reverse logistics, too.

By DC Velocity Staff

In "New uses for old things," one of our favorite departments in the magazine Real Simple, the magazine's editors suggest alternative, often surprising, uses for everyday objects. That's exactly what came to mind when we read the Feb. 2 "Logistics Viewpoints" e-newsletter. In it, Precision Software Marketing Manager Linda Olster explained how to use a transportation management system (TMS) to streamline the handling of returned goods and improve the customer's experience. Here's a summary of her suggestions:

  • Incorporate the return process into the initial outbound shipment by including an authorization form and return carrier label with the package. This is common practice in retail but not in other industries. It will reduce the number of customers' calls for authorization/shipping information, while eliminating a separate step for producing and sending the paperwork and label.

  • Use the TMS to alert customers that a warranty replacement shipment is en route. This can reduce the number of inquiry calls. If the customer places the return item in the empty box when the carrier arrives, it also will shorten the turnaround time and minimize inventory in the network.

  • Utilize package-tracking functionality in the TMS to learn when a customer has initiated a return. Knowing what is on its way and when it will arrive supports optimal staffing in receiving and inspection, and it can speed processing of any credit due to the customer.

  • Use the TMS to analyze trends. The data collected can reveal how long it takes from the initial customer request to the arrival of defective items at the disposition site. Using that information to identify and eliminate the cause of delays can improve efficiency and reduce inventory in the network.
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