Are You Using Reverse Logistics?

Reverse logistics get a lot of press in supply chain news, and for good reason: making use of them can lead to considerable savings.

Reverse logistics are concerned with supply chain aftermarket activity, including Customer Service (which feeds back into product lifecycle and development), servicing, remanufacturing, recycling and sustainability. Strong reverse logistics can lead to considerable gains in efficiency, and have a positive impact on product support activities such as refurbishment, field service and parts management. The Reverse Logistics Association adds that RL is “the scientific process of managing assets, in every department in all industries and across all disciplines.”

Within this definition, the data tracked in Reverse Logistics falls within the purview of B2B integration in general: parts, servicing, refurbishment, and other areas of RL all leverage the same data-sharing mechanisms and process that conventional logistics do, placing them within reach of most partners already using B2B.

Given the compatibility of Reverse Logistics with conventional B2B integration resources and logistics, Rl is a worthy consideration as a profitable undertaking for B2B-integrated organizations in the coming year.

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Supply Chain Strategies for Peak Product Delivery Seasons

Strategic planning for peak delivery seasons such as the holidays is most of the battle, according to Doug Pasquale, Ingram Micro Mobility’s senior executive for supply chain solutions.

“First and foremost, have a dedicated holiday supply chain strategy put in place at least six months before the holidays,” he said, adding that it’s wise to begin planning for the next peak period once the present one is completed, and that it is important to communicate with other B2B partners as soon as possible.

Another best practice is to commit the planning and resources necessary to make your B2B supply chain contribution a differentiator to both vendors and buyers, he added, pointing out that no-hassle policies regarding returned product will bring favor on both sides.

In addition, he said, sophisticated demand forecasting and strategic response plans for supply chain disruption can also be the difference between holiday season success and failure.

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Boost Resources and Share Logistics during Holiday Supply Chain Shifts

UPS will deliver a record 585 million packages by the end of December, and that’s 11 percent more than it delivered last year. That’s a lot of product being moved – enough packages, if placed side-by-side, to circle the planet four times.

“The holiday season is a major retail sales opportunity for our customers, and we have worked closely with many of our shippers to plan delivery volumes,” said UPS Chief Commercial Officer Alan Gershenhorn. “Our objective is to ensure that all of our year-round business and retail shippers can take maximum advantage of expanded UPS capacity during this important period.”

He said that a supplementary workforce of almost 95,000 seasonal employees were hired prior to the December increase, and that almost 50 additional sorting shifts were implemented in the company’s hubs and delivery centers around the US, to handle the increased traffic.

Part of the strategy for handling such supply chain activity surges includes the sharing of demand forecasts with other supply chain partners early in the process of ramping up for the season. Equally important is sharing logistics results with partners, for the refining of analytics that will improve the accuracy of forecasting the next time around.

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3 Ways to Thank Partners This Holiday Season

B2B partners including suppliers, shippers, 3PLs and customers etc. are the lifeline of your business. You have every reason to thank them this holiday season. There are three things you can do to improve your B2B relationships and keep your partners happy.

1.  Improve Partner On-Boarding

One of the biggest challenges in B2B relationships is the complexity of on-boarding partners. Setting up partners for B2B document exchange is painful and can damage the relationship from the get go. There are several steps you can take to fix that. A dedicated Partner portal remediates the problem as partners will have one portal for on-boarding, testing and managing subsequent changes for certificates and keys etc. Two way communication just becomes easy and most of the on-boarding steps can be automated.

2. Consolidate B2B Systems

Companies use multiple B2B systems and that causes partner dissatisfaction as the same partner has documents like orders, invoices and payments going back and forth over different channels. Multiple systems cause chaos, decrease visibility and automation/process improvement initiatives fail. Evaluate your B2B exchange mechanisms and see if your transmissions can benefit from consolidation. Engage partners in consolidation initiatives and increase visibility and scalability of your B2B transactions.

3.  Make APIs part of your B2B Strategy

File based B2B systems work fine but the interfaces are not suitable to real-time interactions. Light weight REST based APIs are a good alternative for real time needs. If you want real-time visibility into a particular transaction e.g. check the status of a payment, the APIs can expose the B2B data for such transaction details. Moreover APIs provide a secure way to extend your data to mobile devices which means you can get visibility into B2B transactions no matter where you are. Over time you can also extend this visibility and take actions remotely.

B2B data formats such as EDI may be old but you can still modernize the infrastructure by consolidating the systems into a B2B Gateway and build on-boarding portals to streamline partner setups. By planning for an API extension to B2B Gateways, you can gain additional visibility and meet mobile needs. Thank you partners this holiday season and plan on improving your B2B in 2015.

 

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