Reverse logistics

Also known as: Return logistics, reverse logistics, return logistics

Reverse logistics or return logistics is the counterpart to Distribution logistics: It encompasses all processes for collecting, handling and transporting goods that are no longer required or are returned by customers (returns). In addition, she coordinates their disposal, reprocessing or repair in the further course.

Definition / explanation

Das Management einer Unternehmenslogistikkette betraf lange Zeit die klassischen Bereiche Beschaffung, Produktion und distribution. Mittlerweile wird für eine ganzheitliche Betrachtung auch die Reverse Logistik als Teilgebiet einbezogen. Sie umfasst die Planung, Implementierung und Steuerung von Prozessen, die entgegengesetzt der traditionellen Richtung einer Wertschöpfungskette fließen (engl. reverse = umkehren). Dazu gehören Entsorgungs- und Retourenprozesse.

These sub-areas within reverse logistics outline the tasks of reverse logistics management: Distribution management is necessary for the collection of residues (or returns) and for the distribution of the recovered materials.

The warehouse management takes over the inventory management and monitoring of the collected materials. With the help of processing and preparation processes, the production of new raw materials (or products) is realized.

Goals of reverse logistics

The goals of reverse logistics are to close the material cycle and to conserve natural resources. Of course, it also serves to increase customer satisfaction, as more and more of them demand an ecologically oriented, environmentally friendly and sustainable production and product responsibility from companies.

This change in perspective was not least due to legal requirements that obliged waste management companies to adopt a circular economy and manufacturing companies to undertake extended returns.

Reverse logistics areas

Disposal: These are all logistical processes for the optimization of material flows of internal and external waste. The focus is on the avoidance and recovery of waste (recycling).

Returns: Returns logistics are particularly important in the mail order business. The tasks of reverse logistics are invoicing processes (credit notes), organization of repairs or disposal of the goods, repackaging and reintegration into sales logistics.

Guarantee: Warranty logistics deals with returned products that become inoperable during the warranty period. To do this, they have to be identified, suitable spare parts procured, sent for repair and delivered again.

Container and reusable system: The classic flow of goods to the customer often takes place using reusable means of transport (pallets, containers, etc.). The task of reverse logistics is to make the means of transport available to upstream points in the supply chain.


  • Reverse Logistik erfolgt umgekehrt zum Güterstrom in Richtung Sales market
  • organizes the return of waste, guarantee or returned products as well as their disposal, recycling or repair
  • is related to changed legal framework conditions, customer requests and raw material scarcity with regard to circular economy
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