The Returns ASN Best Practice to Optimize Reverse Logistics in Your Warehouse.

This best practice is about Returns ASN (Advance Shipment Notice).  We discussed about the ASN before and we articulated on how useful was the ASN in deployment scheduling and your were able to plan your work in the receiving area. You were also able to get upfront information as to what is going to hit your DC and you could even allocate inventory in terms of the location of the product and allocate inventory for some orders. 

If you have a powerful warehouse management system (WMS) the returns station can also become powerful. Typically the way the returns process works is if a consumer or somebody wants to return the product, they call ahead and then get a return authorization number. This is the way how the return shipping works so that the returns department is aware they cannot just blindly return because nobody would know why this is showing up and what – needs to be done. That’s why it’s important for the person whoever is sending return to call ahead and create that returns authorization.

The returns authorization is then downloaded as a return ASN into the WMS system. When the return product shows up and when they try to receive against the returns authorization of that product they receive against their return ASNs so that it’s trackable all the way from the beginning to end. Like the other inbound ASNs that are coming your way you’re also able to plan your returns work. In return it’s not always the nice thing that everyone loves dealing with it, I mean it’s not a nice thing that everyone likes, but it’s a necessary evil and it’s only increasing as people buy more products online. 

Especially in the luxury side of the business such as Zappos and Nordstrom and this new business model Trunk club and Stitch Fix. All those companies are getting even more returns than their actual sales because every shipment that ships from these them always ships with the returns label. If the customers don’t like the product they can just send it back and they can even schedule in such a way that UPS will come to their home and pick it up. They make it so easy for people to return merchandise product that they bought, which obviously will them in the backend of their supply chain. The supply chain operators are either going to struggle or they have to have a sophisticated returns process in order to handle all that. That’s why it’s very important to have a returns ASN which starts with the returns authorization process. 

It could be a trigger on the customer side, it could be on that shipping label where the pre-authorized returns ASN is already created and it dies out after sometime or something like that. Another bad part with returns is every single return needs to be looked at and humans have to decide manually whether it should become a scrap or does it become a second quality shipment that they can sell it in their factory store or does it become goes to the refurbished department so that they it can be sold as a brand-new item. 


So based on the condition code that gets applied, disposition code is determined. For example, if my condition is really bad then the disposition code will be “scrapped”. If the condition is passed as new then the disposition code will be “back in stock” and if the item looks shabby then the disposition code will be put it on the second store. The returns ASN helps in having a clean returns process so that you can go back and analyze your returns data and look a particular item is getting back most frequently. You can run SKU analysis and figure out the problems with the item such as defects and give feedback to the manufacturing Department.

So the return ASN is something that you want to think about and take advantage of and implement this best practice to improve efficiencies with your returns process, and to have a good returns process in place. Please share your thoughts and comments in the section below.

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Puga Sankara
Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiator designs, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. So far, Smart Gladiator Wearables have been used to ship, receive, and scan more than 50 million boxes. Users love them for the lightweight, easy-to-use soft overlay keyboard and video chatting ability, data collection ability etc. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 17 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at or visit the company at Also follow him at
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