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Driving MRO efficiency

Getting the right parts, at the right time, is more vital than ever

RS ConnectPoint® has been developed to offer a fast, convenient route to structured MRO procurement – and it has come into its own during the pandemic

As the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted supply chains and caused sudden surges in demand, it has never been more important to have an effective MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) procurement tool that’s accessible to people on the frontline. In the rush to get an urgent part, corners can be cut – ad hoc and unapproved suppliers are used, hours lost trying to identify the right item, and quality can be sacrificed.

During the pandemic, that sort of approach has become even more time consuming. “A lot of businesses and a lot of competitors, big and small, have either been closed or forced to operate in a different fashion,” says Peter Malpas, President for EMEA at RS Components. “Huge numbers of new customers have come to us during the pandemic because their existing supply chains have not been able to fulfil their requirements.”

Some companies, especially in the food and beverage industry and medical suppliers, have seen demand for their products ramp up, potentially squeezing out routine maintenance. Others, like the rail industry, have used virus lockdowns to get ahead with maintenance.

In either situation, engineers are likely to need items at short notice. To complicate matters, even if their supply chain is still working, many frontline staff have no immediate access to a computer to place an order.

Seeking out a PC wastes valuable time, which in turn increases the temptation to phone a local supplier, circumventing MRO purchasing strategies. Every £100 spent in this way could add over £200 when the costs of processing orders and chasing payments is included.

Here to stay
The impact of COVID-19 on people, businesses and the economy is going to be long-lasting, increasing the need to operate even more efficiently. “This is not a time for businesses to be spreading their spend across more suppliers,” says Alex Davies, Head of Value-Added Services at RS Components. “There is a school of thought that says: ‘If I spread the risk, then I’m placing myself in a stronger and less vulnerable position’. “Actually, that’s not the case. So, the way businesses should move forward, irrespective of COVID-19, is to work more strategically with a smaller number of suppliers who can help them add value to their business rather than just be a vendor. That’s my advice.”

“Work more strategically with a smaller number of suppliers who can help add value to their business"Alex Davies, Head of Value Added Services, RS Components

Our Indirect Procurement Report 2019 − The Future of MRO with the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) found that 41% of procurement professionals say a lack of spend visibility and control is their biggest day-to-day challenge.

RS ConnectPoint® is an intuitive touchscreen terminal that allows a user to quickly connect to the RS PurchasingManager® platform, where they can find the exact part they need and order it. It also connects to our nationwide network of 16 RS Local branches, so the customer can be in touch with their nearest centre. All without having to spend time away from the workshop or lab. RS ConnectPoint® is built on the highly scalable and low-cost Raspberry Pi hardware platform.

Simple, effective and convenient
Users are issued with a QR code or a PIN to log into an RS ConnectPoint® terminal. As well as sourcing parts and placing orders, they can track an existing order, get safety information, request data sheets, or find answers to specific questions.

The desire to keep things simple extends to the RS ConnectPoint® communications interface, too. Customers can talk to RS Local staff via a message service that includes live-chat with the RS technical support team.

“RS ConnectPoint® is not industry specific. You could put it in a food factory, a university faculty – it could go anywhere. It's diverse and very flexible"Alex Davies, Head of Value Added Services, RS Components

“The inspiration behind this initiative was simply to help customers eliminate unproductive and wasteful activities from the purchase process,” says Davies. “If a situation arises in which somebody needs to order something, but they end up unnecessarily walking around, waiting to place orders for relatively low-value items − looking for a computer or going to talk to a procurement officer − that’s not the best use of their time. “RS ConnectPoint® is not industry specific,” Davies adds. “You could put it in a food factory, a university faculty – it could go anywhere. It’s diverse and very flexible.”

“Retail trends are creeping into B2B thinking, and customers increasingly expect you to be an omnichannel business"Alex Davies, Head of Value Added Services, RS Components

It also demonstrates how RS Components is keeping up with customers’ evolving expectations. “We’re seeing retail trends creeping into B2B thinking, and customers increasingly expect you to be an omnichannel business – they want to choose how they transact and communicate with you and they expect you to be available across all formats and platforms, whether physical or digital,” says Davies.

COVID-19 has accelerated the move to e-procurement by many of RS Components’ customers, says Malpas. They value the inventory transparency and ease of ordering it delivers. “Already, in excess of 70% of all the business we transact is done digitally in one way, shape, or form,” he says. One RS ConnectPoint® customer had just one person responsible for collecting requests, then sourcing and ordering parts from multiple teams. Bottlenecks and delays were common. Orders would arrive via email, as written requests and sometimes verbally. It was time-consuming and generated unnecessary processing costs. Using RS ConnectPoint® cut the time taken to order MRO parts by more than half.

It’s just another way RS Components is reducing complexity, boosting convenience, and saving time in the new era we find ourselves in.


For more information on RS ConnectPoint®, please visit here