If you’re already working with a 3PL provider, you already know what “forward logistics” means. It’s the all-important start-to-finish process that gets your products from the manufacturing plant anywhere in the world into the hands of your customers through transportation, warehousing and shipping. With more consumers shopping online every day, returns are an important piece of the business that you may be overlooking in the rush to get goods to the customer.

man calling about his returns which is known in the 3PL industry as reverse logistics in southern CA


What happens when that product is defective, the wrong item or the wrong form of it (such as the wrong size or color), damaged in transit, or is refused by your customer? That product is on its way back to you, or your customer service center. The minute the refusal/return process starts is the beginning of what’s known as Reverse Logistics.

The Other Sales Process

Most companies focus on their forward logistics, including last-mile transport (from the truck to the customer’s front door.) In the process of getting a product to a customer, the potential for a return may not be a priority. But anytime you’re selling products to customers, returns are just part of the aftermarket supply chain. In 2017, returns were about 10% of total sales figures.

There are several reasons you need to consider 3PL for your company’s reverse logistics:

  • Returns
  • Recalls
  • Repairs
  • Replacement
  • Refurbishment
  • Remanufacturing (including end-of-life)

Much like forward logistics, the product is shipped back, then tracked and tagged for warehousing, triaged according to the quality and condition, and finally, dispositioned (repaired, refurbished, trashed, etc.)

The Reverse Logistics Association, founded in 2002, did the first market research study on reverse logistics. RLA found that over $750 billion was being spent every year on reverse logistics processes just in North America. At the time, there were no trade associations, magazines or other support networks available to support this segment of the supply chain or share best practices.

Why Should You Let A 3PL Company Handle Reverse Logistics?

For the same reasons you have a 3PL company for forward logistics, including:

  • Helpdesk/customer service
  • Fulfillment services
  • IT Process management
  • Repair service
  • Replacement management
  • Field service
  • Recycling
  • Waste management
  • Warranty management
  • Environmental sustainability and resources

Processing your own returns can be expensive, time consuming, and labor-intensive. Outsourcing your returns to a 3PL company relieves you and your company of that burden, and lets the same experts take care of everything. A 3PL company has the facilities to process and warehouse your returns, as well as get the salable items back in stock quickly.

Just like sales, when returns spike, a 3PL company can scale up or down as needed. Their order management system (OMS) is just the thing to return products to inventory in a cost-effective, efficient manner, and leverage their expertise to keep shipping costs as low as possible.

Many 3PL providers can offer quality control to inspect, repackage and refurbish products as needed for resale.

If your company hasn’t considered the impact of reverse logistics, a outsourcing your returns to a 3PL company can help you keep your company sustainable and profitable.

Let 3PL WorldWide Handle Your Reverse Logistics

Returns are the downside of an e-commerce company, but are just as important as selling goods. We handle your supply chain logistics in both directions so you can concentrate on building and running your company. Located right here in Southern California, we’re ready to help. Contact us today at (888) 456-1920 or use our online contact form.

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