Reverse logistics is the term used to describe various activities associated with the reuse of products and materials. More specifically, it most often refers to actions that take place after a product has been delivered to its traditional final destination and that enable a company to recapture value from it when it is returned. The term also covers other actions like disposal of the product or its component materials.

Reverse logistics is not a new concept. In fact, the first use of the term was in 1992 in a white paper titled “Reverse Logistics” published by the Council of Logistics Management. However, the idea has received more attention in recent years due, in part, to a desire to recapture value from products and from an increased focus on earth-friendly, “green” practices.

An example of reverse logistics might be that a company sells a computer to a consumer who discovers that it’s defective and returns it. The company obtains the computer and stores it until it can be examined. Then, when it’s determined that the problem can’t be corrected cost-effectively, the unit is broken down into different components (the glass screen, plastic casing, etc.), which are stored until the company’s warehouse team can take the material to a recycling center.

And this, of course, is just one potential reverse logistics flow. In another, it might be discovered that the computer can be repaired and returned to the customer or staged for shipping to a different customer.

A New Focus on Integrated Reverse Logistics

Historically, companies treated returns as one-off events. Today, businesses are realizing that clearly defining how these transactions are best integrated into their overall operations allows them to maximize the value derived from, and efficient disposition of, the returned items. As a result, the ability to plan, implement, monitor and manage the movement of materials out of, into and back out of a company’s facility is critical to the organization’s success.

Two of the most important aspects of reverse logistics are the transporting and storing of materials. That’s where semi trailers for lease or rent play a pivotal role.

How Companies Leverage Semi Trailers to Support Reverse Logistics

One of the biggest differences between logistics and reverse logistics is that the former is more likely to involve a known, quantified flow of items. In other words, companies have a good idea of approximately how many units they will be transporting each week or month. Consequently, their transport needs are often met using owned semi trailers.

A company’s reverse logistics needs, on the other hand, may vary widely. In some months, there may be very few product returns. In others, the number might spike. For example, imagine that a manufacturing company receives a bad batch of components that are used to build its devices. Soon after that lot starts shipping, the business experiences a surge in returns.

In that scenario, a rented or leased semi trailer can be a lifesaver. The company quickly obtains the necessary trailers and uses them to collect the defective units and return them to the factory. This ensures that there is no disruption to outbound shipping or decrease in shipping capacity.

Continuing with this example, if the company doesn’t have room in its facility for the returns (and no company wants to be paying rent on empty space!), it now has a storage problem. Here again, rented or leased semi trailers can support reverse logistics.

Parked on the company’s property, at the trailer rental company’s site or at a third-party terminal, the trailers can be used to store devices until they can be properly addressed. Then, when the short-term need is resolved, the over-the-road semi trailers and storage semi trailers can be returned to the provider.

Benefits of Using Rented or Leased Semi Trailers for Reverse Logistics

Companies that rent or lease semi trailers as their reverse logistics needs dictate find that this approach is beneficial in many ways, including that:

  • Obtaining semi trailers “on-demand” is more cost-effective than purchasing trailers or leasing warehouse space that may or may not be used.
  • Semi trailers can be rented or leased and put into service quickly. By establishing a relationship with a trusted trailer rental company, a logistics manager knows that they have a stress-free way to address surges.
  • Mobile storage gives a company tremendous flexibility. For example, it might be necessary to store units at one location until they are needed by the teams that will repair or disassemble them for recycling at a different location. With semi trailers, no transferring of product into and back out of a storage facility is required.
  • Semi trailer providers handle all maintenance and upkeep on their units. All companies have to do is confirm availability of the trailer(s), sign the lease or rental agreement, show up at the lot, hook up and hit the road. In fact, if a storage semi trailer is needed, some providers like Boxwheel will deliver the trailer to the desired location.
  • There are semi trailers for any need: dry bed trailers, refrigerated (“reefer”) trailers, flatbed trailers, liftgate trailers, etc.

The Future of Reverse Logistics

As more of the world’s commerce becomes e-commerce, the need for effective reverse logistics will only increase as well. And “effective” processes will be key. Today’s consumers expect returns to be as quick and easy as the original order. Companies that can meet that expectation will have a clear advantage over those that can’t. By making rented or leased semi trailers an integral part of their business strategy, businesses can be prepared to respond to any increase or decrease in reverse logistics volume without missing a beat.

If you have questions about our inventory of dry van, reefer, liftgate and flatbed trailers from makers like Wabash, Great Dane and Utility—or about our simple, three-step rental or leasing process—we’re happy to answer them. Please contact Boxwheel Trailer Leasing at your convenience, or stop by our Colorado or Arizona location.

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