Consistent SAP returns process in customer service and field service management


Returns processing and global spare parts business

The rapid supply of customers with spare and wear parts on a global scale is a key factor for manufacturers of complex technical devices and machines (equipment). At the same time it increases customer loyalty.
In the period following commissioning of a piece of equipment, a large proportion of the parts supplied are in the context of warranty and goodwill issues, usually in connection with a complaint.

In complaints processing, the return of the rejected part is usually a prerequisite for reimbursement of the costs or for the free subsequent delivery (and assembly) of an exchange part.

Returns logistics in after sales service

The part objected to by the customer, as “corpus delicti”, is the basis for relevant quality assurance or purchasing activities, often with the close involvement of the supplier who supplied this part. In addition to clarifying commercial warranty and goodwill issues with the supplier, the agenda also includes short-term measures, in particular the repair of the returned part or a corresponding replacement delivery, as well as medium-term improvements in the quality of the supplies.
In addition to the cases mentioned above, in which there is at least a suspicion that a part is defective, there are also many cases in which too many ordered or delivered parts are returned as returns. Basically, it is just a matter of ensuring that there was no transport damage or the like. Otherwise, these parts are returned to the freely available stock and put to the warehouse as quickly as possible after the material inspection and are then available for any dispositions.
The following scenarios occur in technical customer service:

  • The customer has purchased a part that he is complaining about. In return, the customer receives a replacement delivery or a credit memo
  • The customer sends in a part for repair by the manufacturer or dealer and receives it back after the repair has been completed
  • A technician visits the customer and installs spare parts there. The parts that are not required are returned to the company in the same way as the faulty parts

Transparency in inventory and inventory valuation of returns

An important topic in this context is inventory management and evaluation: Auditors and tax auditors are increasingly demanding an audit proof inventory management and a realistic valuation of returns.
Here, the question must also be clarified and mapped in the value flow to whom the returned good, which is received by the acceptance of goods and which the company then goes through as part of the return process, belongs at what point in the process flow.
The return often also has to be technically checked or inspected. On the basis of the findings, a decision is made as to which subsequent processes are to be initiated. In certain situations, this and other decisions influence the value of the goods and thus the valuation of the returns inventory.
Advanced Returns Management (SAP ARM) as the basis for an integrated returns process
With the transactions and cockpits of SAP ARM (Advanced Returns Management), which are available as standard software features, there are a variety of options for designing the returns process from the customer through the worldwide sales and service sites and the manufacturing plants to the supplier in a consistent manner, even on an international or global scale.


  • A stable and consistent returns process replaces unplanned work and ad hoc activities at different locations
  • Significantly increased transparency with regard to location and status of the returned good and the status of returns processing, also in an international environment
  • Close integration with quality management (SAP QM) and purchasing (SAP MM), especially for complaints and warranty claims
  • Visibility of all stocks with adequate valuation
  • Increased efficiency and reduced process costs by avoiding subsequent communication by telephone, e-mail or search activities
  • The ability of customer service to provide information to customers and dealers is significantly improved
  • SAP ARM enables the integration of returns management into a customer or returns portal, e.g. using Fiori or SAPUI5 apps

You can find further information on advanced returns processing here.