The RLA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas is the premier gathering place for returns and reverse logistics subject matter experts to learn demonstrated strategies for improving brand reputation, customer satisfaction, and increasing asset recovery. With over 700 attendees expected, this is the largest event of its kind. Network with colleagues from leading retail and manufacturing organizations to explore proven practices and new concepts.
In this exclusive interview with Supply Chain Management Review — our sister publicaiton — Tony Sciarrotta, Executive Director of the RLA, share his views
Supply Chain Management Review: When the 17th Annual RLA Conference and Expo opens next month, what new subjects will be introduced for panel discussion?
Tony Sciarrotta: Topics for some of our many panel sessions reflect new trends of the growing issues with ecommerce and processing of returns to reduce losses. Take your pick of these.
Cross Border Returns – growing and becoming a more significant problem The Secondary Market Growth with Apparel Digital Transformation in Reverse Logistics AI for Reverse Logistics Not new but important – The Circular Economy
SCMR: How does the RLA stay in the forefront of trends driving the Reverse Logistics industry?
Sciarrotta: The RLA member companies keep us there as every retailer and manufacturer looks for the newest solutions to the huge returns issues. RL Magazine and the RLA SmartBrief newsletter feature stories about the latest ideas. The RLA Committees offer webinars with new solutions.
SCMR: Obviously, women are playing an increasingly strong role in strategic planning and leadership in your industry. What new strides do you expect them to make in 2020?
Sciarrotta: We are seeing women take more of a leadership role (for example, presidents of Sims and Flex) and with the rise in apparel returns, women are offering more solutions to the industry. Women are driving for sustainability in the returns industry.
SCMR: What about attracting new talent from colleges and universities? Any new developments there?
Sciarrotta: Unfortunately, Reverse Logistics is not a separate science or program at any major universities, and inclusion in the supply chain programs does not encompass all of the skills needed to improve customer satisfaction and reduce returns, or ways to increase asset recovery. The RLA has Tim Brown of Georgia Tech as a Board member, and he will host an academic roundtable at the RLA Conference to explore ideas to grow teaching for reverse logistics at the top supply chain schools.
SCMR: We understand that China and other so-called emerging markets are beginning to reject U.S. scrap and recyclables. What kind of alternatives remain to be explored?
Sciarrotta: Of course, it would be great if recycling was as advanced in the USA as in Asia and Europe. That may start to improve as the political situation is not being resolved and China’s doors to USA scrap may stay closed.
SCMR: What role does artificial intelligence and robotics play in your industry? How widespread is adaptation in retail and manufacturing?
Sciarrotta: AI is growing as a way to grade incoming returns, as well as making decisions about the best financial recovery decisions for reselling or recycling returned goods.
SCMR: International trade tensions have led to a lot of supply chain reconfigurations of late. Do you expect this trend to continue?
Sciarrotta: Yes – the trend will continue, again as the political situations are not significantly improving. Also, we have the growing trend of cross border ecommerce that is creating new problems to get returns back in a cost-effective way.
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