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Prevent returns from eating into profits

Cape Town - Work smartly in order to ensure that you don't wipe out profits with poor return supply chain efficiencies," said Grant Marshbank, chief operations officer of supply chain specialists, VSc Solutions.

According to Marshbank, a lot of money can be lost through poor route planning and theft during the return process. He offered a few tips in this regard.

Have a process in place to deal with return volumes

"Not only will your vehicles be doing deliveries to stores - they'll also need to do collections," he said. This has implications for one's route planning, as well as the amount of stock that can be delivered at any given time, considering the fact that vehicles will also need to plan to take returns.

"A route optimisation tool can coordinate the best routes for vehicles considering all of these factors."

Pilfer-proof your operation through greater visibility of stock

Reasons for returns range from damaged packaging to products that need repairs.

"And with greater volumes of stock returning on trucks to the warehouse, it's easy to lose track of all of the items being moved around - which in turn increases the risk of theft," said Marshbank.

Technology makes it possible to scan items being collected by each vehicle at various delivery points. This information may then be integrated into a warehouse management system that enables users to verify whether all returned stock has in fact arrived back at the warehouse.

"The real-time technology makes it possible for those receiving the goods at the warehouse to scan and check each item being returned, making it virtually impossible for items to go missing in transit."

Aim for a quick turnaround time

Once the returned goods are back in the warehouse, companies need to aim to get them ready to sell again in as short a space of time as possible.

"This means assessing them to see if they need to be repaired, repackaged or simply moved to the front of the queue for saleable goods that are about to leave the warehouse," said Marshbank.

This is particularly important considering goods that have a shelf life.

"Every day these goods are back in the warehouse, they're impacting on your bottom line, so it's important to get them back on the shelves as soon as possible," said Marshbank.

"That is why a good warehouse management system is critical to streamline the process because it enables staff to allocate items to the correct bays, ensuring that they're the first items that leave the warehouse again to fill orders."

He said it is clear that efficiency at each step of the returns process is key.


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