The Mobile Device Renewal Industry Gets a Leg Up Through Automation

How automating mobile device refurbishing operations helps the reverse logistics supply chain

Automated tools streamline mobile device refurbishing operations by allowing for simultaneous batch processing of multiple devices.
Automated tools streamline mobile device refurbishing operations by allowing for simultaneous batch processing of multiple devices.

The ever-changing influx of mobile devices in the consumer market continues to permeate to the warehousing and distribution space; trucking; transportation; and other service segments of the global supply chain at increasing adoption rates. Mobile handsets are now a significant part of returns for such service providers, with the volume of returned devices exponentially growing every quarter. In fact, 87 percent of respondents surveyed for Aberdeen Group’s 2012 “Best Practices in Return, Refurbishment and Repair” report stated that the repair, return and refurbishment operations was “very important” or “extremely important” to the financial and operational success of the organization.

As mobile technology adoption increases in the warehouse and in the field, increasing rates of device damage and product replacement continue to directly impact the reverse logistics cycle—creating a demand for automated solutions that is felt throughout the device renewal cycle.

Through the process of elimination

Major service providers process millions of mobile devices per month across a broad range of OEMs and wireless carriers utilizing high-volume throughput automation software. Along with the growth in the number of such devices being traded-in or returned, the amount of labor involved in renewing the devices also increases—resulting in the need for better ways to boost productivity.

Mobile device reverse logistics service providers and recyclers traditionally struggled to refurbish all of the device models that they handle by using different phone support tools from OEMs and manual operations. This often resulted in inefficiencies, longer turnaround times and little or no ability for tracking and audit trail of the devices being processed.

Manually clearing the data from the mobile devices is time consuming and error prone. The operators must be trained on the various menu systems specific to each model; and on how to navigate the device for clearing the data. Invariably, this leads to low throughput and in some instances, incomplete data scrubbing.

Because of the volume levels involved, device refurbishing service providers grapple with how to increase the throughput rate; how to ensure that the entire subscriber data is thoroughly scrubbed; and how to decrease costs and increase revenue.

With a little help from automated solutions

Automated tool providers are working to fill the need. Enterprises now deploy mobile device refurbishment and supply chain management solutions to help drive revenue growth, reduce cost and enhance their customers’ experience. Additionally, leading supply chain service providers offer turnkey post-sale solutions to integrate device return management, repair experience and value recovery intelligence to maximize the value of returned and excess inventory.

We foresee automated solutions becoming more tightly integrated with service providers’ back-end inventory management and tracking systems. So much so that service providers could take inventory of incoming assets and feed this information into the automated refurbishing solutions, which would feed the results into the service providers’ tracking systems for a seamless operation.          

The visibility of these processes can be monitored through integrated dashboards giving executive management and decision-makers accurate, real-time insights into the status of line operations— ultimately resulting in greater profitability and an improved bottom line.

SIDEBAR: Customer Talking Points

“As the market for customer trade-ins matures across the consumer electronics segment, the need for automated tools that allow accurate removal of customer content will grow along with it. In order to remain competitive in the reverse logistics industry as technologies change, we need to take advantage of the opportunities to increase production accuracies and output through use of automated software tools and wireless technology. Creating production-grade solutions to allow removal of customer content on electronic devices is a necessary development in the future of large-scaled, CE return programs. Increased volumes received through consumer electronics returns and trade-in programs require modern tools such as FutureDial’s GreenT, which allows us to streamline processes and product flow through our production lines.”—TJ Farmer, Business Manager, ModusLink Global Solutions Inc., a global supply chain management (SCM) and logistics services and solution provider and a customer of FutureDial Inc.