Revolutionary scanning system from Datalogic finds a new vocation in reverse logistics

Forrester Research is forecasting the continuation of double digit growth in Europe for online retail sales over the next three years. Growth that will result in an online retail market worth €233.9 billion by 2018. Encouraging news for retailers and logistics companies, as many invest heavily in new technologies and infrastructure that will improve supply chain efficiency and support this growing trend.

However, hand-in-hand with this upsurge in online sales lies another growing statistic, one that has the potential to keep retail bosses and their logistics partners up at night - the growing number of e-commerce returns.

E-commerce isn’t the only instance where high volumes of returns need to be processed. Another example is pre-stocked promotional display units, where manufacturers contract with retailers to place specific products on the shop floor for a defined period of time. At the end of the promotion, the displays are returned and depending on the success of the promotion, a large number of items may also be returned with the display. Both the promoter and the retailer depend on accuracy of the returns process to monitor sales and to ensure correct invoicing and payment.

In both cases, returns management or reverse logistics needs to be considered as a fundamental part of the supply chain process but handling individual items as they are returned consumes extensive resources and in many cases significantly impacts operational efficiency, pricing and profit.

Traditional automation systems can be very costly to implement for returns and are not primarily designed to function at the item level. These systems often include tunnel scanners and sortation systems which are very expensive and are unable to handle individual products. For this reason, many logistics operators rely on labour intensive manual processing of returns with staff using handheld barcode scanners to identify items. However, there might just be another solution.

Datalogic, the global leader in automatic identification technology, has worked with its systems integration partners across the globe to explore the use of its revolutionary JadeTM X7 portal scanner as a solution to aid reverse logistics.

Originally developed to improve the speed and efficiency of supermarket check-outs, customers place items on a continuous moving belt in any orientation ready for processing. As items move through the Jade X7 portal scanner, barcodes are read on all sides of the item including the bottom. In addition to reading barcodes, advanced sensors integrated within the Jade system measure the speed, shape and position of the items. Then software inside the device uses the data captured to help identify the product and can even indicate if items are stacked on top of one another. The result. Fast and accurate processing of goods at an item level.

Using this same solution, retailers can simplify high volume returns processing and improve efficiency. Simon Loos, a warehousing and value added logistics supplier for the largest retailers in the Netherlands, is already seeing results after working with Datalogic partner Vierpool to implement the solution to process returns of pre-stocked promotional displays.

The implementation of the Jade X7 portal scanner has enabled the logistics operation to triple its productivity and better optimise its personnel. Prior to installing the Jade X7, as many as seven staff members would work at one station, using presentation and handheld scanners to identify items as they were unloaded from returned displays. Now, a first read performance above 99% from the Jade X7 has increased the speed of the complete operation, without the need to add resources and has created a 50% cost saving in the returns process.