The Returns & Salvage Departments


Thanks for joining us today, we really appreciate you listening and all the Likes and Follows. The comments and questions we receive are really interesting & I hope we’re getting you the information and answers you need to plan out your careers & make informed decisions towards your jobs and advancement.  I’m Marty and welcome back to Warehouse and Operations as a Career, where we discuss and share experiences on some of the many Warehouse, Transportation & Operations positions each week, talking about everything from General Labor positions to Upper Management & how to use experiences, learned knowledge, keywords & self-education through the operations positions to advance or turn that Job into that Career!  We certainly don’t claim to be experts on any subject but we have lived it and will honestly share our experiences, thoughts and probably too many opinions on the subject’s each week.

Today I thought we’d talk about the positions of the returns and salvage departments.  I personally think these tasks are great positions, good to break into warehousing and transportation and both can be doorways into Management positions as well.  One of our listeners was asked if they’d like to move from Lumping or Unloading to the Salvage area, the question was if this was under the Sanitation department and would it be considered a promotion.  Of course every facility is structured differently but typically I’d answer no, in my experiences and what I see most of the time is they both normally fall under the Warehouse.  In the Distribution world Returns are usually generated through the Transportation tasks, or Sales and Will Call to a lesser degree & Salvage is a product of Shrink to the Operation.

Let’s talk about Returns for a minute.  Returns are brought back from the various deliveries or by sales and could include anything invoiced by the warehouse and never picked up or even a product brought back to the building by the customer or purchaser.  This area is typically separated from or away from the inbound and shipping areas.  Depending on your industry this could be a requirement by one of several regulatory agencies due to things like Lot Code or Production dating, batch or run numbers or things like country of origin even.  Some products require forms to be filled out and certain documentation restrictions like confirming the product is sealed and no evidence of tampering has occurred.

As Return associates it may be our job to confirm the item was removed from an invoice at the attempted point of delivery, probably apply a system or accounting code as to the reason of the return, assess wither it is viable and re-saleable and enter its count back into our Inventory System.  In a directed environment, meaning everything must have a receiving tag which besides just giving us a slot location we may have to collect lot numbers, expiration dates etc again so our system can track it.  Usually the returns process is turned each shift, meaning we’ll need to work hard to see that everything in our department is reviewed, invoice and billing was adjusted correctly & it’s receiving and Inventory procedures are complete.  In several facilities I’m familiar with it’s our job to properly put the product away as well, or get it to the selection slots.

The Salvage department is a separate area, some location locate returns and salvage in close proximity to each other but the workloads a kept apart.  Salvage doesn’t necessarily mean the way it sounds. In our examples we’re thinking of saving the product, or saving the loss of product or value, helping reduce the expense for our company really.

Say a case is damaged on the dock during loading, it’d be taken to the salvage area or if we’re running or hauling off the dock with a pallet jack and our load isn’t real secure and the corner case falls off and is damaged we’d take it to the salvage area or maybe if we’re operating a fork lift and we smash it, fork it or drop one we’d take it to the salvage area, or at least I hope we do what’s right and get it where it belongs, doing our jobs correctly will keep inventory correct making everyone’s job easier that would be touching it later on in the process.  Now don’t get me wrong, we hope none of these examples ever happen, what’s important is we learn from them, that we are always as careful with the product as we are our equipment and our peers, I mean if were working Safe, following all the procedures like lifting and handling the products properly, checking our loads before moving that first inch & always being aware of our surroundings and actions nothing will happen to our products or cases anyway right?

To answer our listeners question, Salvage usually does not fall under Sanitation, it’s a usually a warehouse function due to it needing to be recorded, its relation to inventory and the necessity to discard it or re pack it.  As to wither it’s a promotion, – I guess we have to define promotion, Merriam Webster states a definition as “the act or fact of being raised in position or rank :”  So many times we associate, or expect, that a promotion instantly means money, we can overlook the education or learning potential of an additional task or a few responsibilities. The pay rate of any position will vary from industry to industry and of course company to company & I don’t think we can just always apply pay to the promotion word.  In my opinion a promotion means I’ll get to learn something new, some form of responsibility will be added to me, I may be taught how to operate new equipment even, I really call that a promotion, the money will come!  As we discuss the Leads and entering management as Supervisors in future episodes we’ll define promotion a bit more in-depth but that’s how I feel, I mean we haven’t necessarily found our career or settled into our long term position just yet, we’re going to be taking advantage of every opportunity we can right now to learn the jobs around us and we’re raising our hands when anyone asks us to learn right?

In working the Salvage area it’s going to be our responsibility to identify what happened to the case or product so we can remove it from the Inventory System properly or code it correctly.  In many instances we may be able to save or salvage or protect or save some of the loss.  Say a case of ketchup, packed 12 bottles to a case comes back to our salvage area but only 2 bottles are broken.  We had another case last week damaged as well, maybe we can clean them up & make a whole case out of it to be resold.  Now we’ll need to make sure the lot numbers, dates and everything match etc but it may be just fine to combine them saving our company the loss.  Maybe we can even inchoate a program with the vendor to supply empty boxes, we could clean the product and re-box it.

Returns and Salvage both work closely with the Warehouse and Transportation areas, as well as Inventory Control.  The Finance departments, usually I/C will need to make the appropriate adjustments to inventory once we have re – packed, made whole or determined the case will be distressed or disposed of.

This brings us to the disposal of the case, box or piece.  Depending what Industry we’re working in this could be as simple as throwing it away in the dumpster or compactor if it’s a solid product like our ketchup example.  With recyclable items like paper, cardboard or plastics many operations utilize recycle bins or plastic & cardboard receptacles or even bailers to dispose cases or products.  Remember our example Employee Joe Character?  He’s working in the Foodservice Industry, in a Distribution Center.  Food products may fall into regulatory realms, many products may have to be distressed before disposal.  As an example –  you of course wouldn’t want someone taking a case of meat product out of a dumpster that had been thawed out or damaged, contaminated in any way so we’d need to insure it could not get back into anyone’s hands or consumed in anyway.  Different Items have different rules or procedures that must be followed and documented, be sure to follow them, it’s important and in many instances, it’s the law.

In many industries, our Salvage possibly can be sold to salvage companies even, another avenue to discard them.  Always follow your companies procedures and processes, if unsure be sure to check with your Supervisor or Manager with any questions.

I feel both of these positions are great ways to break into warehousing, we’ll probably be taught to use an electric pallet jack or rider jack, let’s remember though, yes you guessed it, not to ever get on any type of powered equipment or use any machine until we’re trained and certified to do so.  We will be working closely with several other departments, learn a bit about them, they very well may be our next stepping stone in the company.  Remember, let’s be that employee that’s noticed, be the best at our Returns or Salvage position, learn the positions or tasks that were working beside & let our management know we’re ready to take on more responsibilities.

I hope we gave you some information you can use today, please feel free to email us at if we can answer any questions or to suggest a topic we could discuss or get some answers on.  Until next week, work safe, be safe, warm those muscles up pre-shift and after lunch, we need them to take care of us!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *