RMA numbers are essential to the returns process.

Returns and reverse logistics are challenging. Customers consider returns low value and low priority. But the financial impact to your business of getting products and parts back quickly and efficiently can be huge.

Getting that part returned is very important and valuable to you. The part may be repairable and could be resold as refurbished equipment. It may also be important to your quality engineering people in evaluating defects and failures. And you want to keep equipment away from secondary markets to protect your IP and avoid it being sold as used equipment.

To reclaim these parts and information about defects, implement a process that includes easy customer returns and active receiving and evaluation processing at your return facility. In addition, give your customer an incentive for expediting the return. Many companies initiate a replacement invoice for warranty or repair items. When a broken or damaged part is returned, the customer’s invoice is credited. If the broken part is not returned, the customer is billed.

Return Material Authorization or RMA numbers are critical to processing parts. The RMA number is usually associated with the original order number so warranty costs and serialization can be tracked. In this way, returned material can be tracked, and defect origins identified. The equipment being serviced should also be tracked to validate that the warranty or service contract is active. Your quality department may want to trace the part to your vendors or correlate defects with other similar defective parts. In addition, when parts are returned, they can be easily identified and set on the path for repair or quality examination.

Returns or reverse logistics operations are usually given a very low priority for talent and resources; don’t make this mistake.   Returned parts and products are an excellent source of material for refurbishment and use in field service.   They contain valuable information on product failures, and they contain your valuable intellectual property.   Make good use of this “golden” resource.

Excerpted exclusively for SmartVan from the new book, 42 Rules for Superior Field Service, by Rosemary Coates and Jim Reily.