The flow of product returns is becoming a significant concern for manufacturers. Typically, these returns have been viewed as a nuisance, resulting in reverse supply chains that are designed to minimize costs. These minimum cost reverse supply chains often do not consider product return speed. The longer it takes to retrieve a returned product, the lower the chances that there are financially attractive reuse options. Unlike forward supply chains, design strategies for reverse supply chains are unexplored and largely undocumented. The most influential product characteristic for reverse supply chain design is the marginal value of time. Responsive reverse supply chains are the appropriate choice when the marginal value of time for products is high, and efficient reverse supply chains are the proper choice when the marginal value of time for products is low. Product returns and their reverse supply chains represent a potential value stream and deserve as much attention as forward supply chains.
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