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The Differences in Transportation and Logistics Functions of Reverse Logistics

The supply and distribution sectors apply the terms transportation and logistics interchangeably; however, they differ in the scope of operations and functions. Transportation is the movement of merchandise from one point to the other along the distribution channel. On the other hand, logistics is the inward and outward movements of goods from the manufacturer to the end-user. Even though the terms apply interchangeably, they exhibit much diversity in reverse distributions. Reverse logistics integrates all components of a distribution channel, including competent human resources to plan, implement, and control the flow of finished goods, raw materials, information, and in-process inventory. The control purpose entails operations from consumption to the end of disposal or recovery. Thus, logistics and transportation functions in reverse logistics differ by the scope of operations which excludes integration of transportation, value recapturing, services, and transportation handling.

Reverse logistics has many functions to fulfill in the distribution channel, especially when distributors fragment it into transportation and logistics functions. However, the main purpose of this analysis is to show the different roles in the two categories.

Recapturing Value

Reverse logistics acts as a value recapturing method for goods in process inventory and finished goods damaged during transportation. In this case, the reverse movement of goods offers the speediest possible disposition to capture the total remaining value of goods (Fugate et al, 2006). This way, the logistic operations must account for the original price, cots of movement, and track movement of components to ensure maximum value recovery from the goods in warehouses and retail lines. Besides, reverse logistics offers particular metrics such as energy expenditure, products cost, resale, return to the secondary market of disposal options (Li et al., 2012). These metrics enable proper control of the system in evaluating which product can regain market value and undergo reprocessing.

On the other hand, transportation functions in logistics involve the movement of goods and services from one point to the other. Transportation consists of the return from retail and e-commerce and items from refurbishing and manufacturing (Fugate et al, 2006). This function involves the distribution resource only to move items from the end-users back to the reseller or manufacturer. Additionally, transportation functions rely on logistics for information, such as goods for disposal and movement to the secondary market (Fugate et al, 2006). This way, transportation differs from logistics as it solely involves movement reversely and along the distribution channel without integration of collateral activities such as packaging and handling.


Transportation offers the best functions in logistics as far as distribution is concerned. It provides the best transportation routes which are cost-effective for good in transit back to the manufacturer (Li et al., 2012). This way, the function is dependent on the transportation mode and how competent the transportation staff is in delivering goods and services. Additionally, the imperative factor in the transportation part of logistics is ferrying goods (Li et al., 2012). The flow of goods caters to freight cargo cost, size, and weight under shipment to the reseller or the manufacturer. These functions differ from the logistics part of the process since it has to integrate diverse factors to elicit a holistic approach.

Comparatively, logistics offer a comprehensive framework with added diversity from the transportation mentioned above services. Logistics managers have to work collaboratively with warehouse managers, transportation managers, and modes of transport when deciding on packaging, containerization, and documentation (Fugate et al., 2006). Logistics functions serve as the foundation of other transportation functions that rely on all resources and information that logistics managers gather and disseminate. Besides, reverse logistics involves proper planning before transportation to any intended destination, whether the secondary market, refurbishment, or remanufacturing centers (Li et al., 2012). This way, it consists of planning for the management and implementation procedures for the efficient flow of goods, services, and information back to the sender.


Warehousing is part of effective logistics management which depends on the type of goods companies are handling. Goods on return require assembling stations, including warehouses where inventory managers receive defective orders from transportation staff (Palšaitis et al., 2017). This function is crucial as it helps filter viable goods from resale, refurbishment, and remanufacturing. Besides, this function indicates the importance of analysis integration in logistics which determines how successful and profitable the reverse flow of goods will be in the future (Palšaitis et al., 2017). Transportation does not include analysis since companies use modes of transport interchangeably or in combination; however, logistics has to determine the output of restoring value from defective goods. This scenario is possible through the reverse logistic function of integrative analysis.

Transportation of goods and services is less reliable on warehouses consolidation despite having added advantages such as sorting, packaging, and handling. The dissemination of goods relies on efficient carriers such as freight planes, cargo trucks, and trains (Palšaitis et al., 2017). Unlike Logistics which has to consolidate interests in warehouses to elicit information management such as market demand from repackaging services, sorting and refurbishment, transportation eliminates the gap between the end-user and the manufacturer. Besides, transportation serves all kinds of goods that require reverse movement to the producers’ premises (Palšaitis et al., 2017). Some companies transport produce directly to the consumers and wholesalers who do not need much warehousing apart from a reliable transport system. Even though warehousing helps consolidate products in a central point from the collection, transportation is convenient if it’s reliable, cost-effective, and safe for different goods requiring restoration.


Reverse Logistics is the brain behind the flow of goods back to the manufacturer, while transportation is the muscle behind that sees it through. However, the efficiency of reverse logistics depends on how logistic executives and project managers tackle issues of documentation of defective goods, repackaging, storage, regulation, and insurance (Fugate et al., 2006). The ability of the reverse operations to preserve the remaining value of goods in transit determines the system’s effectiveness. Besides, reverse management involves risk mitigations, inventory management, procedures, and lifecycle management, ensuring minimal returns and proper disposal planning (Li et al., 2012). This function differs from transportation as modes of transport serve time, cost, and safety of goods in transit.

On the other hand, the transportation system’s efficiency depends on ensuring the profitability of goods in return transit. Modes of transportation are the significant considerations for goods in transit, unlike logistics which considers all factors interactively and analytically (Li et al., 2012). This way, the transport system offers the best delivery time, routes, and safety as a collective function to preserve value and facilitate disposal and remanufacturing. This way, transportation entails the propulsion forces behind all logistics operations that see all defective goods regain weight through refurbishment or remanufacturing.

The affectivity of Human Resources in Reverse Logistic Performances

The current scope of transportation and logistics is boundless regarding technologies, products, services, knowledge, and geographical zones. Despite the complexity, logistics and transportation companies desire to remain competitive as far as staff competency is concerned (Palšaitis et al., 2017). This way, firms have to consider employee competencies and the future requirements that will guarantee constant success in the reverse flow of goods and services. Logistics is highly reliant on warehousing staff that carries out sorting, repackaging, documenting, and reporting defective goods requiring disposal or remanufacture (Agrawal & Singh, 2019). Thus, a competent warehouse staff would contribute to the warehousing process, deployment, and establishment of procedures.

Moreover, reverse transportation elicits different insights about the mode of transport and packaging procedures that jeopardize products safety. This way, warehouse managers, in practice, determine the security level that packaging style confers to various goods which logistics companies encounter (Agrawal & Singh, 2019). The professionals coordinate the manufacturers’ objectives with the transportation companies to avoid many disposals of value or remanufacturing which sometimes might be uneconomical. Besides, assessment of demand and seasonality minimizes excessive production of fragile products that require less warehousing and handling cycles (Palšaitis et al., 2017). Such information is available from competent logistics professionals, which helps design the production schedule to minimize damages of reverse products and maximize time to recapture value.

Warehousing controls quality through proper handling of goods; however, transportation involves damages due to ferrying activities and lack of handling procedures. Professional managers and staff members consider the provision of eco-friendly logistics operations as their task by examining the physical and chemical aspects of goods in transit to determine the likelihood of damage and disposal (Palšaitis et al., 2017). Some goods produce dangerous waste upon damage; thus, reverse logistics and transportation might be hazardous in case of less scrutiny.


Transportation and logistics occur interchangeably in reverse logistics; however, they differ in the scope of operations and efficiency. Logistics offer a holistic approach to all processes that involve recapturing the value of defective goods. It involves warehousing that provides different services such as sorting, repackaging, and documenting the extent to which goods return to the manufacturer. Analysis offer oversight to all operation to increase the efficiency of operations. However, the logistics part cannot exist without transportation which is the propulsion. This way, the functions rely on competent human resources to plan, design, document, and implement sound decisions about recapturing value and proper disposal.


Agrawal, S., & Singh, R. K. (2019). Analyzing disposition decisions for sustainable reverse logistics: Triple Bottom Line approach. Resources, Conservation and Recycling150, 104448.

Fugate, B., Sahin, F., & Mentzer, J. T. (2006). Supply chain management coordination mechanisms. Journal of business logistics27(2), 129-161.

Li, S., Wang, N., He, Z., Che, A., & Ma, Y. (2012). Design of a multiobjective reverse logistics network considering the cost and service level. Mathematical problems in Engineering2012.

Palšaitis, R., Čižiūnienė, K., & Vaičiūtė, K. (2017). Improvement of warehouse operations management by considering competencies of human resources. Procedia Engineering187, 604-613.


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