By Tom Paquin
It’s easy for organizations to think about reverse logistics as parts management in reverse, and because of that, many firms settle on a boilerplate parts management solution and expect it to manage the dense cloud of inventory challenges that reverse logistics represents. Reverse logistics is much more than returns, though. For most service firms, it’s removing an asset or part from a customer, the act of repair or replacement, and getting that part back. It’s a microcosm of service in and of itself.
To add a layer of challenge on top of that, the systems, pathways, and outcomes for each firm will represent a layer of complexity that will be unique to your business. Furthermore, all of these pieces need to communicate with your inventory system, your field service management system, and so on, in order to maintain operational integrity. With all that in mind, here is a brief buyer’s guide for reverse logistics software. Find a solution... ...with dedicated reverse logistics capabilities. Parts management is great, but in order to manage reverse logistics from farm to table, you want a solution that goes beyond parts management, and doesn’t just treat depot repairs as a reworked on-site repair. You shouldn’t have to change your internal processes to fit into your technology mold; Your technology should accommodate you. The easiest way to do that is to start with a solution that’s actually designed to do, specifically, what you need it to do. ...that organizes your firms’ complexity. After mapping out your reverse logistics pathways, it can seem dauting to consolidate all of those loose ends into a unified concept, which is why it’s so imperative to find a solution that does. Don’t compromise on how you want to see the stages of reverse logistics in action, but be open to those software providers who understand service, and know how to best optimize your systems. Complexity is a good thing, as long as you’re capable enough to manage it. The right software will make you that capable. ...that integrates seamlessly. Systems need to communicate in a common language. It may seem like a sophisticated reverse logistics engine with the depth needed for complex operations can only exist as a bolt-on, but the best service firms have not only the depth to handle any service need, but also the breadth of capabilities to ensure that every piece of the service lifecycle is centralized. Once service is managed, those systems naturally have to communicate with CRM, marketing, and so on. Don’t skimp on connectivity. Getting the full picture pays dividends. ...where the team will stay with you through the go-live, and remain a long-term advocate for your success. Software is software, and a good software partner will hook everything up where it needs to go and help you pilot your new software. The best integration partners understand your business, understand service, and remain an advocate and ally for your service success. This should never be a throwaway element of any software purchase. Reverse logistics is having its moment, and now is the time to be sure that you’re ready to take full advantage of the capabilities available. If you map out your business needs, make the right hardware and software choices, and keep your eye towards emerging technologies, you can turn a complex process into an asset for your business.