New Report Finds DC Managers Are Unprepared for Post-Holiday Returns

To combat strain of returned goods, distribution center managers turn to reverse logistics, Intermec research finds


Everett, Wash.Dec., 19, 2012—According to a study recently conducted by workflow performance company Intermec Inc., nearly two-thirds of businesses (61 percent) surveyed in North America and Europe recognize that the post-holiday period represents the most challenging time of the year due to the high numbers of returns. Yet, despite this, more than half (52 percent) of distribution center managers admit they don’t have the appropriate processes and tools in place to determine if returned goods should be discarded, returned to vendor or moved quickly back into inventory.

“The holiday season is the busiest and most challenging time of the year for distribution operations, especially those engaged in Business to Consumer (B2C) fulfillment,” said Bruce Stubbs, Industry Marketing Director for Distribution Center Operations, Intermec Inc. “With challenging lead times, increased volumes, temporary staffing and the after-holiday deluge of returns, improving mobility solutions for the workforce becomes more critical than ever before if businesses are to meet customer demands and improve profitability.”

The survey of 250 supply chain and distribution center managers in North America, the United Kingdom, France and Germany also revealed the:

Adoption of reverse logistics in the supply chain

  • Approximately 44 percent of distribution center managers admit that managing returned goods is a pain point within the business.
  • Nearly 60 percent (57 percent) of distribution center managers experienced challenges when managing returned goods last year and have started to identify changes needed to get returned stock back into the supply chain as soon as possible.
  • To combat this increasing strain of returned goods and minimize the impact of the holiday season to the bottom line, 60 percent of distribution center managers are turning to ‘reverse logistics—the reverse management of stock to get items back into the supply chain as soon as possible.

 Short-term demands of the holiday season

  • For many businesses, the holiday season provides unique challenges when compared to any other time of the year. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of managers identified this period as the most challenging.
  • To address short-term requirements during this busy period, 45 percent of warehouse managers view the leasing of hardware—also known as Hardware as a Service (HaaS)—as a cost-effective hardware solution for managing the peaks of service.
  • With 72 percent of managers citing multi-functional devices as critical to ensuring worker flexibility and performance, HaaS is an increasingly popular alternative for businesses looking to increase short term mobility.
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