Reverse logistics—the flow of already-produced goods and materials back to the point of origin for recapturing value through recycling, refurbishing, or returns by the customer—has presented a headache for many companies. At the very least, it’s viewed as “an inevitability,” according to this post by Irv Grossman. Instead, he explains, companies should look at the strategic approaches available and how they can better address fulfillment experience. Grossman lists a few ways that companies can help reduce the amount of returns in short order: Companies can reduce the volume of returns somewhat by engaging in such techniques as including a toll-free number in the original packaging, to provide customer help up front. They can also tighten policies in order to avoid fraud. (Or, for that matter, loosen them to win more customers.) Again, the key is accessing the data and making optimal use of it. In some cases the retailer will relay data to the original design manufacturer, to resolve potential issues far up from the chain. That approach can be especially valuable at a time when product lifecycles are shrinking drastically. “You have to see the information early, and get it at the point of contact,” Grossman says. One of the other major causes for reverse logistics – the recycling and extraction of rare earth materials from high tech devices, for example – is simply not being done in an efficient manner. The future of recycling these materials in such a way that is sustainable and cost effective will require a more rigid and optimized reverse logistics supply chain.