Nobody ever said being an MRO professional was easy. It's getting tougher, with constant pressure on costs, the need to avoid downtime and new demands to be ethical as well. Here RS Components’ Peter Malpas offers a way forward to achieve your objectives in a rapidly changing world.

At the start of 2020, the economic situation in the UK was already challenging with spending controls, budgetary constraints, project deferment and cost-saving initiatives common place. The impact of Covid-19 has been hard-hitting for society, people, business and the economy.

Cost continues to be the number one focus for Maintenance, Repair & Operations (MRO) professionals. That’s the theme that soon emerged when we surveyed the industry for the RS Components/CIPS 2019 Indirect Procurement report – ‘The future of MRO’.

The need to reduce costs is a recurring issue – it has certainly featured in most customer discussions I've had in my three decades in this industry. But I’m pleased to see that budgetary pressures are now driving a focus on total cost of ownership for MRO.

One of the biggest challenges I see is that individuals in companies are being forced to focus on the wrong things, particularly when cost pressures hit. It’s not that hard to find the lowest price for the widget.

But the true cost of ad hoc purchases is often much higher than buying from a trusted supplier. This is because of hidden costs, like shipping and the wasted internal effort involved in setting up new suppliers and raising purchase orders.

UK businesses say they have an average of 39 different suppliers. This surprises me as most of the companies I speak to have many more, and often this stretches into the hundreds. I believe that supplier rationalisation is key to success.


Get the message across
Ensuring people comply with procurement policies can be a tough task. MRO professionals can navigate this by explaining to stakeholders the benefits of supplier arrangements and warning them of the hidden costs of going ad hoc. Compliance marketing should constantly remind everyone of the need to use approved vendors.

“UK businesses say they have an average of 39 suppliers, but most of the companies I speak to have many more”Peter Malpas, President for EMEA, RS Components

MRO strategies need to adopt a LEAN approach, focusing on the internal customer and eliminating waste. Championing a methodology known as ‘5S’ throughout the organisation can reduce operational consumables and promote labour efficiency. Originating from Japan, the approach focuses on making manufacturing as effective as possible. The five Ss are:

• Sort – remove unnecessary materials from the work location
• Set – ensure everything is where it can be easily accessed to do the job
• Sweep – keep the work location and tools clean
• Standardise – make sure work processes are consistent
• Sustain – encourage self-discipline and a sense of ownership to keep processes running.

Maximising efficiency in manufacturing does not stop here though. Companies must consider measures like introducing a structured Cleaning, Inspection, Lubrication & Tightening (CILT) programme.

Condition-based monitoring will identify impending component failures and firms should be using new technologies to reduce energy use and increase efficiency. When it comes to procurement, open bin vendor-managed inventory (VMI) solutions like RS ScanStock® ensure parts are there when you need them.

Streamlining back-end processes using e-procurement or web order management services will save on hidden costs and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will play an increasing role in ensuring continuity of production.

Keep your supply chain clean
More than a third of respondents surveyed for our report say their buying needs to be sustainable.

“The Industrial Internet of Things will play an increasing role in ensuring continuity of production”Peter Malpas, Regional Vice President, Northern Europe, RS Components

At the same time, counterfeit parts are a massive concern – they can fail and damage a plant, putting it out of action for unacceptable periods. It’s just one avoidable cause of downtime. Half of all MRO professionals say downtime while waiting for parts is their biggest cause of stoppages, but there are many things you can do to avoid it.

You can anticipate component failure by using IIoT-enabled devices in a strategic approach to spare parts management, under a well-managed maintenance programme.

It’s vital to ensure you hold the right inventory, both from a specification and a volume perspective. It is also critical to review the number of suppliers being used for indirect procurement and to think carefully about how their performance is being measured.

Everyone in the organisation has a part to play, so engaging and persuading all stakeholders of the value of getting it right is key. Because if we do get it right, improved processes and therefore reduced costs will follow.


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