Edition 124, April 2023

RLA Conference 2023 - Wrap Up

By Cathy Roberson, Reverse Logistics Association

Oh my goodness, what an event! There were so many great sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, so many folks networking, and so many smiles at RLA’s 19th annual conference! A week in Las Vegas, sharing reverse logistics ideas, challenges, and successes among retailers, manufacturers, and third-party service providers.

This year’s record event officially kicked off with a welcome from Tony Sciarrotta and, along with OnProcess Technology, a raffle of a number of goodies.

But, prior to the official welcome, the Women in Reverse Logistics luncheon was held in which Ingrid Sinclair, Global President at Sims Lifecycle Services, was the guest speaker. 

Three years ago, Women Leading @Sims was created to provide women a safe place to come together to talk about work/life balance, training, advancement, the market and more. “Knowing that there were peers out there” was among the feedback the program has received over the years.

Ingrid highlighted the book, How Women Rise, (copies were handed out via a drawing), in which it notes 12 habits holding women back - One of these habits, “The Disease to Please” was discussed in great detail.


The industry roundtable highlighted a number of research projects underway within RLA and from NTT DataGlenn Richey of Auburn University also joined us and provided a great overview of the university’s supply chain program. Big thanks to Glenn and Auburn for the great interns helping out RLA during the conference!

Within the RLA, we’re working on market sizing, ranking reverse logistics service providers, and collecting market data. 

Our Standards Committee, led by Ron Lembke and Ken Jacobsen, is working on standardized serial numbers to track electronics and other items, benchmarking and education/training programs. Maria Eisenberg, Director at the Circular Economy Federation, a part of RLA, provided an overview of the education/training program that RLA plans to offer soon.

Sylvie Thompson, Consulting Vice President, Supply Chain Practice Leader at NTT Data, provided an overview of the annual 3PL study and its special section on reverse logistics.

The Retail and Manufacturer roundtable discussed such concerns as the economic environment and challenges, including recycling, remanufacturing, and transport and handling of lithium-ion batteries.

In addition, drivers of returns, establishing KPIs, 3PL evaluation and technology were also covered.

The Reception

Our first raffle winner, Syed Fahad Hashmi, won Rayband Wayfairer sunglasses sponsored by BacTrac. Congratulations!

One of the start-ups, Newmine who will be competing in RLA's startup pitch contest on Thursday along with our Jan Hawthorne.

And finally, the best giveaway award goes to Beumer Group. What's not to love about kangaroos!

Day one ended with a sold-out Cell Phones for Soldiers Charity Top Golf event. Thank you all for participating!

On Wednesday, Tony Sciarrotta (appropriately attired) kicked things off with the annual RLA awards.

Winners were:

The keynote speaker on Wednesday was Becca Meinz of Best Buy. Becca talked about Best Buy's journey through the pandemic and how important open-boxed and refurbished products were for customers building out in-home offices and students having to learn from home. In addition, the importance of reverse logistics to Best Buy in terms of growth opportunities, new customers, and its expanding outlets.

 Finding ESG opportunities in Reverse Logistics and Nonprofits as an RL solution – good for the community & good for business were also great sessions. Great quote from the nonprofit session, "We're not here to replace your business but to work with you."

In the Wireless and reverse logistics session: Help us advance a circular economy for cell phones & other mobile tech, "A pressurized environment" caught my attention as panelists discussed how businesses were fleshing out inventories and big dumps into the secondary market. From a 3PL perspective, the importance of agility was learned during COVID. In addition to inventory challenges, there is a serious technician shortage of 20,000. Plus, something I didn't realize is that there is no job classification code for service/repair technicians. To make up for this shortage, Marian Galvin Galvin of CTIA said that they were partnering with schools for training opportunities.

In the Reverse our thinking: Logistics powered by data session, a good quote that I think many folks can relate to is, "We have all the data, but bringing it all together is the difficult part." From Jason MacIver of Dell - "Using data is important for finding things you can't see."

(Dr. Dale and Zach Rogers talking to IDX)

Dr. Dale Rogers and Dr. Zach Rogers presented a review of 2022 holiday returns. Two big takeaways for me were that holiday returns make up 41% of annual returns and dollar stores are the fastest-growing secondary markets. Also, according to Dr Zach Rogers, the value of goods moving through secondary market retailers has more than doubled, from $297.8 billion in 2008 to $688.9 billion in 2021, the equivalent to 3% of U.S. GDP. 

Perhaps one of the biggest highlights of the entire conference for me, though, was the startup pitch contest. Congratulations to the Judges Winner, Newmine, and the Audience Winner, Pollen Technologies Inc.

Photo courtesy of IDX

Big thanks to our judges - Alex RhodeenRobert EcholsSender Shamiss, Stephen John, and Sylvie Thompson.

Last but not least, we closed out the conference with our annual Interactive Champagne Roundtables--with RLA Board Companies...yes, champagne included!

Thank you all for making this year's conference another record-breaking one! And thank you, IDX, for your great interviews!

Be sure to check out the conference highlights from Tuesday.

Cathy Roberson