Logstics ComplexityWhen you are refreshing, or sending out new end user IT equipment such as laptops, PCs, tablets or mobile devices, you probably have a plan and budget for the shipping and tracking of the equipment going out to the end users. This is referred to as forward logistics.

Reverse Logistics is the term for the process, and the discipline, of managing the tracking, collection and shipping of RMA returns, redeployment assets, or retired assets to their next or final destination. Many purchasing and IT managers overlook the complexities of reverse logistics. If you manage reverse logistics as carefully as you do the purchasing and distribution of the new equipment, you can save money, reduce environmental impact, minimize your staff time and hassle, and also ensure that your asset lifecycle management system has good data on the final disposition of every asset.

Some of the asset management activities that are part of the reverse logistics process entail collecting the assets from the end user desks/locations, storing them, and recording asset details– including hard drive information. The logistics activities include packing the assets for shipment and transportation.  Once they are received at their destination, asset management should require validation of assets received versus what was supposed to be shipped. At that point, the assets would be processed for repair, re-image and redeploy, resale, or recycle.

Reverse logistics expertise is something you should require of your IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) partner. Together you should determine the most cost-efficient and resource-efficient process for removing and tracking IT assets.

A good example is an organization with many locations that have just a few, or only one, client system. This is common with retailers and organizations with many dispersed field personnel. At headquarters and major offices, the collection of a large number of assets for each collection by the ITAD vendor is straightforward. But how do you manage ones of a smaller number of assets, perhaps only one or two? Available options, depending on your business, include: a) provide the end user with packing materials and a special tracking label so they can ship it to one of your central locations; b) have the field tech support/installer collect the assets over a number of end users, then have him or her pack and ship them. For either of these scenarios, your ITAD vendor could provide the labels, and the material sent directly to the vendor for tracking and processing. A third option might be utilizing existing transportation/shipping between your locations. An empty truck, or one that’s being used for other things but has some room available, for instance, provides the perfect “free” ride for your assets.

Two important factors when you are creating your reverse logistics plan are locations and time.  Location of the end user asset and location of the final destination should be considered. It probably does not make sense to have an end user ship their used laptop from the west coast to the east coast, then have it collected by a vendor in yet another location. Look for ways to reduce shipping costs, and environmental impact, by using vendors that have multiple locations for receiving and processing your equipment.

Time is important because these devices probably have resale value. That value declines over time, so the sooner you can get the devices to market, the more you will get in return. A complicated process, one that has many “stops” along the way, or one where you try to collect a large number before turning them over to your ITAD vendor, will all add significant time to the reverse logistics cycle.  This translates into lost value for you.