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The Difference between Reverse Logistics and Logistics

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By Dr. Robert Gordon
Program Director, Reverse Logistics Management, Government Contracting and Acquisition, and Military Management

Because reverse logistics is an evolving field, I am often asked, “How would a bachelor of arts in reverse logistics management (RLM) prepare me compared to a bachelor’s in transportation and logistics management with a concentration in reverse logistics?” This graphic is a visual representation of how these areas overlap while also having their own identity.

Although both degrees teach valuable logistics and reverse logistics skills, having a degree with a central focus on reverse logistics brings a different set of problem-solving skills and new solutions to old business problems. And since reverse logistics includes recycling, reusing, and reducing waste, it’s helping businesses uncover new revenues while being good environmental stewards.  

One Key to Amazon’s Success Has Been Making the Returns Process Easy

Also, reverse logistics increases customer loyalty by enhancing the returns process. One key to Amazon’s success has been making the returns process easy, while some traditional retailers like K-Mart made the returns process complex, leading to a loss of customers and perhaps hastening its demise.

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Reverse logistics also helps organizations save money by reducing packaging waste. If the packaging will only be thrown away, why not make it efficient and recyclable? Reverse logistics also explains the importance of efficient repair operations for returns leading to improved customer satisfaction.

[Podcast: A Tsunami of Returns and Understanding Reverse Logistics]

Anyone familiar with warranty plans for technology understands that if a product fails and is covered by a warranty, that product can be replaced without having to send it back for repair, which could take weeks to complete. With Apple, for example, a faulty product can be returned and replaced immediately at an Apple store, rather than having to send it back to be repaired. Apple will repair that damaged device and put it back into circulation; how that is done is all about reverse logistics.

Large retailers have quickly embraced reverse logistics as a cost-reducing measure. The government also uses reverse logistics, and many government contracts have requirements for retrograde or reverse logistics. Specializing in reverse logistics can provide you with a unique set of qualifications to help organizations strategize and navigate new or emerging technologies or environmental policies, in addition to helping the bottom line.

About the Author

Dr. Robert Gordon is the Program Director of the Reverse Logistics Management, Government Contracting and Acquisition, and Military Management programs at American Public University (APU). APU has an accredited academic program for a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Reverse Logistics.

Dr. Robert Gordon is a Program Director of Government Contracting & Acquisition, Military Management and Reverse Logistics Management at American Public University. He earned a B.A. in History from UCLA, an MBA from the University of Phoenix, and a Doctorate of Management and Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Gordon also holds graduate certificates in Logistics Management, Project Management and Information Systems Security.

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