The ongoing recall of peanut butter products has put the spotlight on reverse logistics, an often-neglected aspect of supply chain management, according to SAPICS (The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management).

Earlier this month, the National Consumer Council (NCC) urged consumers to stop consuming and return certain brands of peanut butter to stores due to heightened levels of aflatoxin. The NCC continues to call on manufacturers of peanut butter and peanut butter-based products to test their products. But how prepared are South African businesses to protect the public through swift, efficient product recalls?

They can be a nightmare for organisations and supply chains, SAPICS notes. This latest food recall in South Africa should be prompting all organisations, including manufacturers, retailers and logistics service providers, to examine their reverse logistics plans and skills, the organisation says.

“The logistics involved in getting items back from consumers and retailers around the country is an enormous challenge. Having efficient, tried and tested recall plans and effective reverse logistics programmes in place is essential for manufacturers, retailers and everyone in the end-to-end supply chain,” stresses SAPICS president MJ Schoemaker. “It can mitigate the potential damage and turmoil associated with a recall, including ensuring the health and safety of consumers, maintaining good relationships with suppliers and customers, preserving brand reputation and retaining the trust of consumers, and reducing the potentially enormous costs associated with a recall.”

Reverse logistics encompasses all the activities associated with a returned product or product components that are effectively moving backwards through the supply chain. It includes recalled goods as well as faulty or substandard items and parts of products that are reused or recycled.

Reverse logistics is often forgotten because most companies’ primary focus is on the forward supply chain, or forward logistics, which gets products to market and has the greatest impact on a business’s bottom line, according to SAPICS. However, organisations ignoring the reverse supply chain and the need for reverse logistics planning and competency do so at their peril.

Recognising the importance of reverse logistics, it is one of the topics that SAPICS covers in its regular skills development and networking events, like the annual SAPICS Conference, the leading event in Africa for supply chain professionals.

Successful supply chain management has become essential to compete successfully in today’s competitive global marketplace, and supply chain roles must be filled by people with the requisite knowledge, skills and qualifications, including in the overlooked area of reverse logistics. Since its foundation in 1966, SAPICS has worked to elevate, educate and empower the community of supply chain professionals in South Africa and across the continent. This is done via membership, events, the annual conference and education courses and workshops through Authorised Education Providers and others. SAPICS is registered in South Africa as a not-for-profit company.

This year’s 46th annual SAPICS Conference takes place from 9 to 12 June 2024 in Cape Town. It will be held under the theme “Supply Chain Metamorphosis” and hosted in association with the Southern African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF).