Reverse logistics is everywhere, and goes by many names. For example, reverse logistics professionals handle the food and automobile recall problems you see on the news. They manage recycling of household waste. The warehouse manager charged with creating new revenue from scrap wood, plastic, and paper from unloading cargo is a reverse logistician. There is also the customer service representative at the local retail store who helps you replace that toaster you are returning because the color is wrong.
Whether it is referred to as recalls, recycling, reuse, return, or sustainment, these activities are all forms of reverse logistics. Reverse logistics is big business, and the website of Reverse Logistics Association (RLA) lists just some of the many types of jobs available.
The interesting thing about this field is that the jobs are at many organizational levels. Companies are creating new job titles such as VP of Returns and VP of Recalls. There are executive positions arising from the need to convert manufacturing waste into new revenue streams.
While some schools offer degree programs in reverse logistics, professionals who take even a single course can gain important skills. For example, an American Public University student who is a warehouse manager realized during a course that the wood pallets and packaging material from incoming supplies could be sold to a vendor who turns that waste material into new products. Her subsequent efforts helped lead to a promotion to recycling manager.
Success stories are everywhere. So, where to look? When you apply for that new career, and you have completed a few courses in reverse logistics or have that BA or MA degree in your hand, be sure to tell potential employers that you can help develop ways to generate new streams of revenue.
I am always interested in learning about more professionals and companies that are succeeding with reverse logistics. Let me know about your ideas, your entrepreneurship, or your position in reverse logistics.
Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is the Program Director for the Reverse Logistics Management. Previously, he was a tenured Associate Professor of Logistics at the University of Alaska Anchorage. His Ph.D. is in Engineering Management from Old Dominion University. His book, RFID Metrics, examines how we define problems such as reverse logistics.