I came to GoPro at the beginning of 2012 to run the reverse logistics program. I was coming from a company on the east coast where I managed both the forward and reverse logistics programs for a company shipping Internet appliances and mobility products domestically. The draw to the west coast was irresistible given the opportunity to work for a growing company selling a really cool product to almost every country in the world.
My goal would be to establish a global program to provide outstanding service to our customer base when post sales service was required, facilitate a more efficient process for managing warranty entitlement with our distributors, and to quickly translate return screening data into an actionable feedback loop for our product, engineering, and quality groups. Specifically, I would need to establish returns processing, testing, and replacement distribution centers in the US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. A global 3PL had already been selected and the sites selected were in Southern California, The Netherlands, and Singapore. The lessons I learned while executing this strategy, relative to navigating the contrasting cultures of business partners in these regions, would make the move from the east coast one of the best work related decisions I’ve made. I will attempt to compare and contrast these cultural differences between the three regions.
Soon after starting with GoPro, in the humble offices along the scenic coast of Half Moon Bay, California, I quickly realized that the state of the reverse logistics program was familiar, as I’ve experienced this stage at previous companies. The program was in an early iteration in an ongoing evolution where the reverse logistics program was completely managed internally by a dedicated group of product specialists. There was a “warranty” room where this group would receive returned cameras daily, screen the cameras and ship warranty replacements as necessary. All data was maintained in a spreadsheet and there was no feedback loop from the test data to our internal departments. The warranty replacement cycle, especially for international customers, was painfully long. While work had already begun with moving reverse logistics functions to southern California, I would need to work quickly to meet my goals of implementing a more sophisticated and customer-responsive network. I would start with the US region, then EMEA, followed by APAC.
In comparing and contrasting the work ethic and cultures, the main attribute I would assign to my distribution partner in the US would be flexibility. This attribute is also one of the customer service elements measured on a monthly vendor scorecard and one with which this vendor continues to outperform against the expectation each month. There was also an ability of the vendor to read between the lines and interpret limited input into execution. I could provide a fewer details and expect our partner to move quickly. Finally, the US vendor would also provide creative solutions to existing problems without intervention or specific requests. The result of these interactions was that I was able to move quickly and meet timelines. The unintended consequence was that the reality of the output wasn’t always what I had intended. This would be a problem I would resolve by lessons learned in EMEA and APAC shortly.
For the EMEA region, a distribution center in Apeldoorn Netherlands was selected for returns and replacement shipments in the EMEA region. In standing up a returns center it became quickly apparent that I needed to provide a greater level of detail in my instructions, my documentation, and answers to many unexpected questions. As a result, the process took longer than I had expected, required a greater amount of my time, and was overall more complex compared to the US. I was challenged on several occasions regarding process and existing documentation, which further delayed execution. This was initially frustrating, but as a result, the quality of the output matched my expectations exactly and over-all quality of the product shipped from this location is unmatched. Additionally, with the help of the Netherlands based process engineer, we created a Global Standard Operating Procedures document, which became the blueprint for all of our Reverse Logistics Solution centers.
To support our customers in the Asia Pacific region, we selected Singapore as the site for the Reverse Logistics services for our customers in this region. Armed with lessons learned from the US and EMEA implementation, the stand up of the Singapore center was almost seamless. As with the location in the Netherlands, there were detailed questions and requests for documentation and at this point I had the answers ready and global documentation prepared to facilitate a successful integration. An attribute distinctive to this region is that my Singapore business partners would follow my direction exactly as communicated and do it quickly. This meant that it was critical that I took the appropriate time to assess the directions I was provided and anticipate the outcome because I was going to get exactly what I requested. The outcome was that I was able to both execute quickly and with a high level of sustained quality.
With an established Global Reverse Logistics and Post Sales Support Network, we are able to provide regionalized and consistent service to our customers with quick replacement cycles, provide our international distributors better service, roll-up screening data from all refurbishment centers to provide a meaningful feedback loop internally, and manage replacement inventory effectively. Along the way, I made some great business relationships, some new friends, and had the great pleasure to experience different cultures, food, traditions, work ethics, and lifestyles.
Steve Freemerman is the department head and manager of Global Reverse Logistics and Post Sales Service for GoPro. Steve is responsible for the global returns, testing, and disposition of GoPro products with an emphasis on the technical and operational requirements of the position. Steve’s previous experience covers 14 years in leadership positions of forward and reverse logistics programs related to enterprise telecom, consumer internet access, and mobility. Steve received his Bachelors degree from the University of Tennessee, The Supply Chain Professional Certification from Georgia Tech, and an MBA from The Robinson College of Business at Georgia State.