A more efficient management of returnable packaging

The use of returnable packaging (aka RTI) in the automotive supply chain has grown tremendously over recent years. This growth has had a number of different drivers, including, cost, environmental, parts protection, lineside storage and physical handling amongst others.

Using returnable packaging does, however, involve a significant management overhead. The RTI are assets that need to be tracked by the owner (usually a large customer or a 3rd party pool provider) and they are also facilities that need to be provided to suppliers for the packing and transporting of parts. Tracking the return of full RTI is usually done in conjunction with tracking the receipt of the parts they contain. This process has been well covered for many years through the use of Odette standard EDI messages but the management of empty RTI has, up to now, been a less standardised operation with each customer having its own process.  Introduce 3rd party packaging pools and transporters into the equation and the management process becomes even more diverse.

A group of process owners including OEMs, Tier1 suppliers, packaging pool operators and transporters have therefore been working together over the past months to identify and describe the various process steps in order to develop a best practice recommendation. This Phase 1 of the project is now almost complete and the recommendation should be published before the end of the year.

Technical experts have now joined the process owners to work on Phase 2 which covers the selection and development of standardised EDI messages to support the various management processes described in the best practice recommendation. It is anticipated that a full set of EDI messages will be available by July 2017. 

All those involved in this project are convinced that the integration of RTI management in the digital supply chain and better co-operation between process owners will result in significant savings for the industry.