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Amazon Drones and Reverse Logistics


amazon-drones-and-reverse-logisticsBy Dr. Robert Gordon
Faculty member, American Public University

The recent announcement on 60 Minutes by Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos to use drones to deliver products via his proposed Amazon Prime Air is sparking the interests of professional logisticians around the globe. What’s most compelling is that Amazon’s announcement doesn’t address potential benefits to the reverse logistics field that drones can offer in the near future. In fact, Amazon might be missing out on a huge potential market.

Imagine being in the field and needing equipment (say a radio) to be repaired. Rather than follow the traditional channels of returning products to a depot for repair and then either waiting for the repaired item or a replacement to be shipped out, a drone could carry the item back directly to the depot and then have the replacement returned directly to the service person in the field.

Not only does this have the potential to drastically reduce the return and replacement cycle time, but the entire process is also far more environmentally sound. Battery powered, green drones would replace the inefficient internal combustion engine vehicles that are currently used in the delivery and return process. Furthermore, drones could free up personnel that could be deployed in other areas rather than driving materials to and from the field.

Consider the following real-world example. A person takes a car to a garage to be given a routine tune-up and brake service. This service might include small parts like spark plugs, gaskets, cables, brake pads, and the like. Most garages do not keep these parts on hand. They often must send a driver, or they have a delivery made to get the needed parts. In addition, disks and drums might need to be serviced at a machine shop. Imagine the efficiencies if all these parts were sent and received by drones.

The movement of green drones throughout the city would not be limited by traffic and would be far less polluting than trucks going from place to place. This application of forward and reverse logistics would greatly reduce emissions as fewer service vehicles would need to be on the road.

Based on this game-changing news, reverse logistics professionals need to start thinking about the potential of this new technology now.  The applications are limitless and drones are sure to have a huge impact on the reverse logistics of the future.

About the Author

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon is currently an Associate Professor with American Public University System in the Reverse Logistics.  He has four published books, three regarding project management and one regarding reverse logistics in addition to dozens of articles.  Dr. Gordon curates a Reverse Logistics topic at http://www.scoop.it/t/reverse-logistics-by-robert-gordon2.