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Preparing your supply chain for the circular economy

A man working at a computer recycling center removes parts from a hard drive.

Currently, only 9 percent of the materials consumed each year by the global economy are being reused. But more countries—and more businesses—are starting to move away from the old, linear economy that discards products after use toward the new, circular economy with its focus on reuse, regeneration and sustainability.

This more thoughtful and efficient approach comes in response to unprecedented growth in global consumption over the past few decades—and the limited resources available to meet this growth. Recently, UPS invited businesses across all industries—from high tech to retail to industrial—who could play a significant role in this new economy to attend a webinar titled, “Preparing your supply chain for the circular economy.”

Webinar hosts Vignesh Anandan, UPS marketing manager for global insights, Jim Brill, UPS reverse logistics project manager for the U.S., Rob Brooks, UPS marketing manager in global e-commerce and retail strategy, and Jeff McMichael, UPS marketing manager for post sales, fielded questions from attendees about the circular economy and specific supply chain solutions. Here are the 10 most popular Q&As with insights to help your business navigate this new economy.

Top 10 Q&As from the UPS circular economy webinar

1. How can smaller companies with a broad range of products make returns simpler?

To make the process easy for you and your customers, the UPS Returns® portfolio offers the UPS Returns® Manager platform. Located at ups.com, this platform allows you to manage the company return policy for your UPS® account. For your customers, they get quicker returns for faster refunds. With shipments designated “pre-authorized,” they can access a return shipping  label simply by tracking their delivered package, then print at home or at a The UPS Store® location and use one of our UPS Access Point® locations to get the package to UPS. For you as a shipper, the process is streamlined and more efficient. You improve inbound visibility to enable early refunds, control the return-to destination and service level, and reduce costs with fewer customer service calls and no IT expenses or transactional fees.

2. What do I need to set up UPS Returns Manager?

Contact your UPS® Account Representative.

3. How should the last-mile delivery change to make it more sustainable?

Today, the last mile has a lot of waste and impact on the environment, so UPS is working to make this delivery more circular. UPS Access Point locations provide local locations, such as The UPS Store® and other local businesses, for customers to redirect their packages when they’re not home. This provides your customers greater convenience and flexibility, as well as an option that minimizes the environmental impact of their delivery. UPS also is testing a loop system for durable, reusable consumer packaging to reduce waste by eliminating the need for single-use boxes.

4. What are the best industries to leverage UPS’s Service Parts Logistics service?

Our core Service Parts Logistics solution is specific to a manufacturer’s installed equipment that is critical to that company’s operations. Though this solution applies across many industries, the sweet spot tends to be high tech, industrial manufacturing and medical equipment, where a service level agreement (SLA) tied to the sale of the equipment states that the manufacturer promises to get the equipment back up and running within the SLA timeframe. Examples include a high-tech server, a printer/copier, ATM or MRI machine, elevators or wireless network equipment.

UPS has over 900 global Field Stocking Locations—basically small warehouses where we inventory service parts on behalf of our manufacturer clients and ship these parts to locations for pickup by service technicians. This outsourcing model offers a customer service advantage and substantial savings to manufacturers, including a huge reduction in working capital costs by eliminating the need to maintain their own parts warehouse network, which also means less parts inventory and obsolescence.

5. Can my company use the new UPS® eFulfillment service for reverse logistics as well as forward distribution?

Yes, UPS eFulfillment is a multichannel selling and fulfillment platform that focuses on the small to medium-sized business while offering a menu of returns options for the multi-channel merchant.

UPS eFulfillment combines the fast and reliable shipping your customers demand with the scalable inventory management your operation needs. UPS eFulfillment can store the products you sell and get them into your customers’ hands quickly. The eFulfillment platform and bundled pricing help you manage inventory, orders and costs so you can focus on growing your business. UPS eFulfillment offers flexible returns options for fulfilled orders. Learn more about eFulfillment and sign-up today.

6. How can Optoro help me resell goods in secondary markets?

Optoro is a reverse logistics technology company that is transforming the way retailers process, manage and sell their returned and excess inventory. With their proprietary software, OptiTurn, Optoro leverages predictive analytics and dynamic pricing to optimize the proper channel, such as return-to-stock, return-to-vendor, sell via secondary markets, donate, recycle or destroy. Optoro also brings an innovative approach to the traditional liquidation model, leveraging marketplaces to efficiently sell returned apparel, electronics and consumer goods across a dozen digital platforms, including Amazon, eBay and Optoro’s own consumer-facing sites, BLINQ.com and BULQ.com.

7. Are there ways to integrate UPS’s returns solutions with my company’s e-commerce site?

Yes, by using the UPS® Shipping API specifications, or by engaging with the UPS® Solutions Group to build an API for you. In addition, you can easily use the UPS Returns Manager platform on ups.com.

8. When I use the mobile app, can UPS Access Point locations as well as drivers handle my return?

No, Mobile Code returns are only accepted at The UPS Store locations. UPS Access Point locations and drivers cannot accept Mobile Code returns.

The Mobile Code feature for making a return is distributed through the UPS Returns Manager platform once the account is registered and set up. Or it can be arranged through a customized engagement with the UPS Solutions Group. When you select the Mobile Code to make your return, you will then bring the package and smartphone to any location of The UPS Store. The counter agent will scan the code and produce the return label.

9. How will regulations evolve to support the circular economy?

The EU’s Circular Economy Package (CEP) went into force in 2018, setting targets on waste and recycling. Regulation in the U.S. and other countries is likely to follow. According to the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signed by 196 countries, each country must determine, plan and regularly report on the contribution that it undertakes to mitigate global warming starting in 2020. Expect to see significant carbon emission regulations in the next few years. In 2018, China, center of the global recycling trade, banned the import of solid waste. This is going to force regulatory changes in many countries.*

10. What is the best way to explore the various solutions discussed during the webinar?

Please contact your UPS Account Representative, who will be able to assemble a team of experts to evaluate your existing supply chain and work with you on the appropriate UPS solutions to fit your needs.

For more information on the circular economy, including five strategies your company can use to help enable a circular supply chain, watch the full replay of the UPS circular economy webinar.





Find Out More

  • UPS®'s commitment to sustainability

    UPS has provided nearly $4 million for environmental initiatives focused on climate change, renewable energy, and resource conservation.

    Learn more about UPS and sustainability
  • UPS Returns® and reverse logistics

    Create a competitive advantage with returns that work for your customers, your brand, and your bottom line.

    Learn about UPS Returns solutions
  • Expand your options: the UPS Access Point® network

    More than 27,500 secure local drop-off and pick-up locations worldwide with nearly 9,000 in the U.S. across 400 cities.

    Learn more about the Access Point network
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