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The Renewed RLA

The Renewed RLA

by Tony Sciarrotta, Executive Director & Publisher, Reverse Logistic Association

Reverse Logistics Magazine, Edition 77

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· Since 2002, the Reverse Logistics Association has been the only global industry association and trade group for its members that is focused on reverse logistics, returns management, and asset recovery.
· RLA members are retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and 3rd Party Partners who provide best in class outsourcing solutions.
· RLA collects and offers reverse logistics industry data, research, and whitepapers to promote reverse logistics and best practices to all companies in all consumer goods categories.
· The RLA Industry and Focus committees are being revitalized with RLA advisors, and a drive for increased membership with appropriate companies and leadership. Active committees have been great for companies involved to discuss issues and find solutions, as well as grow business opportunities for 3rd party partner members.
· All pricing in the RLA is under review – membership, exhibits, sponsorships, workshops, etc. – and there will be a program for every size company.

· The 14th Annual RLA Conference & Expo will return to Las Vegas, Tuesday, February 21st to Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 to the Westgate Hotel. The event will be concentrated with one main general session track, interactive sessions and roundtables, and strong, relevant keynote speakers with topics requested by members.
· The RLA will again have regional workshop events in conjunction with member facilities for tours and speakers to offer best practices and reverse logistics research and education.
· As a global association, the RLA will go back to Europe, Asia, and South America for reverse logistics events for the many members in those regions.
· The RLA will ask exhibitors and members to participate in attendee registration and membership drives. Many colleagues have offered to reach out to new companies to join the RLA, with a focus on additional consumer product categories.

· RL Magazine is being published again on a regular basis with the opportunity for member companies to reach your specific reverse industry target audience. This digital magazine will reach many thousands of reverse logistics specialists all over the world.
· RLA News Clippings are sent to members on a weekly basis with stories relevant to returns management, asset recovery, recycling, legislation, etc. and links to the full stories for you to read.

These are some of the goals of the RLA. You can register on our site as a new user for free, and choose what communications you would like to receive.

Q&A with Tony
Before joining RLA, what is your history in RL?
In 1998, I was moved from my sales and marketing roles, and selected to be a returns director at Philips, to create a returns management department and reduce reverse logistics costs associated with returns. I spent 2-3 years as a sponge, trying to find the industry best practices from the best companies. I attended a handful of reverse logistics events, usually tacked on to a supply chain or field service event. I met academics in the field who literally “wrote the books” on the returns culture in the USA, and ideas to improve the situation. The real improvements began when I had Philips join the Ease of Use Roundtable, an association of high tech companies such as Intel, Microsoft, HP, and others. The focus changed from gate-keeping activities which Philips had begun through serial number tracking, to ease of use and interoperability focus for products Philips introduced to the market. I also traveled to meet with all of the major Philips retailers and ask what they believed could be done. By working with the major retailers on gate-keeping and customer satisfaction programs, Philips was able to reduce returns and reverse logistics volume by over 50%. I stayed in the role at Philips until 2013, added asset recovery for returned goods, continued to attend reverse logistics industry events, and most importantly kept working with retailers to reduce their returns of Philips products by making their customers happier with their purchases.

After I was able to retire from Philips, I consulted for several companies to find and quantify best options for reverse logistics at a brand and model and retailer level of analysis. The analysis is critical in reverse logistics, and finance is a critical part of the disposition negotiations for products, whether they are returned for refurbishment, liquidated into the marketplace, or recycled as raw materials.

When/How did you first become involved in RLA?
In 2003, when I was still researching industry groups and events to learn the newest practices of reverse logistics, I was connected to Gailen and we had similar views of the need for all companies to focus more in this area. I attended my first RLA events that year, found many colleagues all looking for answers, and talked to everyone about the best ideas known to impact reverse logistics at different companies. I was invited to speak, and then to join the Advisory Board in 2004, and continued to attend every possible RLA event in the USA and around the world. I knew that the best ideas to get improved results could come from any company in the world that focused on reverse logistics. Not enough companies did, and I believed the RLA was the best opportunity to improve Philips and network with others.

Since you joined RLA, you’ve been a strong supporter and active member? Why?
There are at least two critical aspects of reverse logistics all companies must learn to deal with - one is about improving products to be easier to use because retailers taught me no one buys a product just to return it. Something went wrong, as our consumer surveys have always shown, and the manufacturer must take steps to address that area. Second is the amount of costs transporting high amounts of returned products that have no technical failures. As one of my colleagues always says, in reverse logistics only the carriers make money. For retailers and manufacturers, we both lose money with unhappy consumers who begin the reverse logistics process by taking products back that did not meet their expectations.

What areas of RLA have you been involved in?
As I mentioned, I was on the RLA Advisory Board helping to suggest the direction and areas of focus for the Association. I practiced evangelizing the RLA and the importance of reverse logistics at every conference I spoke at, and every company I traveled to visit as Philips Returns Director. I gave various presentations, joined panel discussions, wrote magazine articles, and tried to promote more attention for reverse logistics everywhere. In the past, I have used RL Quote to find good 3rd Party Service Providers, read RL Magazine and RLA News Clippings to stay abreast of the industry changes, chaired and participated in some committees, and tried to find more time to support the RLA.

As the new Executive Director of RLA, how will the Reverse Logistics Association benefit from your leadership?
Over my years in the reverse logistics industry, many companies and colleagues have heard me speak, or met with me, and everyone knows I have a passion for focusing on improving the customer experience, and then finding the best options for reverse logistics programs for companies. I will continue to evangelize the RLA to the world, and encourage more companies from more industries to join and work on improving results with their reverse logistics. I believe the RLA must offer significant deliverables for member companies, and I will lead the RLA to show results for our members.

How will RLA proceed with you as Executive Director? (what will continue or change: events, magazine, RL Solutions, committees, board of advisors, news clippings, webinars, RL Education, memberships, etc.)
The RLA has been an active and growing association for almost 14 years, with a vision by the founder Gailen of being the global voice of the reverse logistics industry, and getting companies to focus on this important area. I believe the RLA will be revitalized with new, committed, and passionate leadership to have more members, more events, more publications, and continue to evangelize strongly about reverse logistics to all companies. We have already planned for more RL Magazine editions in 2017, and we are looking for more stories and articles from all of our members. The Advisory Board has added senior Intel and Best Buy directors, and we have other nominations for other companies to consider. The RLA Committees are being reviewed for some consolidation and reactivated with targeted members, including new chairpersons and charters. In short, we will continue the best of the RLA with more active support from the Board, myself, my new, additional staff members, and advance the organization to a first class, global association. We will find a way to create a Certification program for RL professionals.

What do you hope to achieve as the new Executive Director of RLA?
My goals are to listen to members for their needs, showcase best companies and practices, and put on more top-rated conferences and seminars with the best speakers suggested by members. I want to build alliances with other associations that touch different areas of reverse logistics (recycling, repair, customer satisfaction, others) and cross-pollinate the best ideas from forward thinking companies. We are proud to announce the approval for the SQRL code format that will benefit consumers, retailers, and manufacturers, as well as support repair and disposition companies with easy access to product information. The RLA will continue to become the global industry source for all returns data, possibly in conjunction with research partners.
On a personal note, Who is Tony Sciarrotta and what do you do when you’re not working?
I have enjoyed a wonderful career with two of the best global electronics companies, Sony and Philips. I am very passionate about my work but also music of all types, and I try to go to live shows often, and I listen to my collection through some high quality components, including an old turntable for my vinyl collection. I love to travel around the USA and the world, and the industry has enabled me to visit a number of countries in the past to teach and share reverse logistics best practices, and make friends with some great people. I plan to continue that with the RLA as a global association. Living in Atlanta, Georgia allows for almost year round bicycling, another passion I share with Gailen and others. I have a great family (my son and wife of many years) who have put up with my work commitment, and shared some of the best parts of my career.

Q&A with Gailen
You announced back in 2014 (?) that you were preparing to retire, and seeking the right individual or group to run RLA. What is it about Tony that made this the right fit?
No one is irreplaceable, even me! But I knew it wouldn’t be easy to find someone with the knowledge and interest to run RLA. Tony had been an active member of RLA since 2003. He had also served on RLA’s Board for 9 years while employed at Philips. But more important it was a simple decision for the RLA Board to approve Tony. They all knew Tony well and were assured that the processes and solutions at Reverse Logistics Association would continue to be available around the world under his leadership.

Where do you see the association heading with this new Exec Director?
Tony will add many new solutions for RLA members, such as his work on the RLA Certification Committee so that professionals will be measured with certification credentials. Also Tony is a champion of the Standards Committee’s new Label Standard that is headed up by Dr. Ron Lembke of the University of Nevada. Already ANSI has approved our new label standard for product integration this coming year. Tony has the knowledge to be helpful to our membership and will recruit industry leaders to share case studies and direction of RL. Already he has added Intel and Best Buy to the RLA Board.

Once you’ve transitioned the association fully into Tony’s hands, what will your role with RLA be? will you be parting ways or continue to be a support to the association?
First, one doesn’t step into this Executive Director position overnight. Tony and I have always had a close relationship and we have now found even more in common. Tony and I are on the phone 2-3 times a day, plus WebEx meetings on Saturday morning’s to discuss processes inside RLA and marketing support of RLA’s valuable customer base. Tony has asked me to continue as an advisor to him for the foreseeable future with special projects from time to time. I’ve been focused on the new labeling standard lately, but I will support Tony with our conferences and seminars to roll out smoothly around the globe.

On a personal note: what are your plans with your retirement?
I had planned to retire in 2002, but I had this idea that (I promised my wife Stella) wouldn’t take much time to manage. Well that idea turned out to be RLA and it became a 50-60 hour a week experience traveling with my wife around the world. Yes, it has been fun, but after 15 years of managing this global organization I knew it was time to let someone younger manage this important process in the supply chain.

My wife and I have 8 children and 32 grandchildren. I will send most of my time with Stella visiting and enjoying our grandchildren. Now I don’t plan to stop being involved in our industry, I serve on the board of 4 companies already. But personally I love searching my family roots and volunteering as a leader in the Boy Scouts of America. Stella and I plan on volunteering a year or two for our church serving those that are less fortunate than us.
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