What is an RMA in Manufacturing?


A Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA) is an authorization from a manufacturer for their customer to return products that do not meet the required specifications. Upon receiving products that have been returned, the manufacturer will either provide rework for the product in order to meet the requirements, exchange bad products for good products, or provide a credit or a refund.

What is the process for an RMA?

Manufacturers all have their own processes for how they handle the RMA process, especially if the manufacturer has a quality system in place. So the process we will describe below is a generalization of the process.

1. Initial Request: When a company has parts fabricated by a manufacturer, and if any parts do not meet the requirements or specification, the company needs to contact a manufacturer and request Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA).

In order for the request to be authorized, the company needs to show proof that the product does not meet the required specifications. This can be in the form of photos, videos, documentation, etc.

If the proof indicates the manufacturer was at fault for the discrepancy, they will initiate the approval of the RMA (see 2A). However, if the proof indicates that the manufacturer is not at fault or responsible for the discrepancy, the RMA is void (see 2B).

2A. RMA Approved: When the manufacturer acquires proof that they did not meet the required specifications, they will issue a RMA Number to the company. The company is to then return the non-conforming products to the manufacturer with the RMA Number on the packaging and documentation of the returned product. This allows the manufacturer to identify the parts as being authorized return items upon receiving. (See 3)

2B. RMA Denied: There are cases where an RMA is denied if the reason for the product being rejected is not the fault of the manufacturer. For example, if the company received a part and began assembling it to the final product, and an assembly person accidentally stripped a hole, the manufacturer would not accept this as a return because it wasn’t the manufacturer’s fault for the hole being stripped. By the product being used, the parts were already inspected, and it wasn’t until the product was damage during their assembly, that caused the product to no longer be adequate.

3. RMA Outcome: Once the returned products have been received and sent to the manufacturer’s Quality or Inspection Department, the parts will be inspected thoroughly to ensure the issue with the product is in fact the fault of the manufacturer. Depending on the severity of the discrepancy, the product will either be repaired, replaced, refunded, or credited to the customer’s account.

Ideally, the manufacturer will do their best to repair the product since it will be the most economical and time friendly. In cases where the product would be more costly to repair, it is sometimes best to just scrap the product and fully replace it. Depending on the manufacturer and company, there are cases where refunds or credits can be made based on the situation.

For products that will be repaired, they will have a Non-Conforming Material Report detailing the nature of the discrepancy and the corrective actions used to bring the product into conformance. After the parts have been repaired, they will be inspected again to insure the issues were properly resolved.

Here at Vista Industrial Products, Inc., we are ISO 9001:2008 and have a strict guideline that we use in cases where a customer is returning product. We want to ensure that all issues are properly resolved in a timely manner, and that we prevent it from happening on future production orders. To learn about our metal fabrication services, visit www.Vista-Industrial.com for more information.

We hope this article clears up any confusion on what an RMA is and what it’s used for. Again, depending on the manufacturer and their quality system, the process for an RMA may differ slightly. If you have any questions, or if you have a process that works differently, feel free to comment below and share!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.