Connecting maintenance solutions with procurement and inventory solutions offers major benefits for MRO, says Richard Graham, Industry Sector Manager at RS

“The big thing for me is the strong connection between maintenance solutions and procurement and inventory solutions,” says Richard Graham, industry sector manager for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and heavy industry at RS. “One approach benefits the other. More effective condition monitoring can address the inherent challenges within Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) procurement, which are exacerbated by short notice, urgent ordering. They’re joined up topics.”

What is the connection and how does this complementarity benefit MRO? Graham explains.

Digital procurement
We have a high prevalence of digital procurement solutions in the OEMs and heavy industry sector, with around three-quarters of our transactions coming through a digital channel. Businesses in these industries are looking for suppliers with a wide range of products and strong digital capabilities that they can bolt onto their systems.

Digital procurement solutions are, in part, well established with these customers because of how the sector is structured. Firms tend to have lots of sites, so introducing a digital platform helps to standardise procurement across all locations.

Businesses within this sector also want support with inventory solutions. They don’t always maintain high levels of stock locally, so they want suppliers they can rely on to plug any gaps. RS does a good job in terms of range of products and stock availability, which encourages firms to choose us more readily than a competitor who isn’t as well placed to service those needs.

Greater efficiency
Industry customers want to utilise resources more efficiently too. There’s not a lot we can do about the price of gas, but as a supplier we can help businesses to improve productivity by minimising the time and cost involved in indirect procurement through digital procurement services or outsourcing the management of stores.

"Engineers can focus on work that adds value to the business"Richard Graham, Industry Sector Manager, RS

If an engineer needs to buy an item on an ad hoc basis, we can make sure that the process is as quick and efficient as it can be so they can get back to doing the work that adds value to the business rather than sitting there placing orders over a phone. Through our services and solutions, we give them back time in their day.

Data analysis
Another major benefit of adopting digital procurement solutions is access to data – and when you’re working with RS, that isn’t just the raw data from these platforms. We can interpret that data and provide insights based up on it.

Look at vendor-managed inventory. You’re getting data that supports with capital control, capital reduction, standardisation of parts, stock availability, sourcing and replenishment, all of which can help a business to utilise engineers or resources more effectively.

We can offer analysis and insight to customers in all sectors, not just OEMs and heavy industries. People think they can just bolt on an expensive e-commerce tool and that will be it, they’ll become more effective.

"Data without any insight is just noise"Richard Graham, Industry Sector Manager, RS

In reality, data without any insight is just noise. It’s being able to interpret that data and deploy those learnings that is important. Plus, we can share best practice across different kinds of industries, which is crucial: being able to say that we’ve seen a problem before and share ways of solving it that would work in this instance is so valuable.

Condition monitoring
The same applies to maintenance solutions. How do you know where to deploy your engineers if you have ten things broken? Through intelligence based on data, which allows you to understand your priorities, if not preventing them from breaking in the first place.

With maintenance solutions, as with digital procurement solutions, we can provide insights that allow businesses to deploy resources where required and when needed. Business can plan for downtime rather than react to it, ultimately becoming more efficient and avoiding the cost associated with unplanned outages.”

However, compared to digital procurement, the utilisation of condition monitoring is typically quite immature in this sector. When do you change the tyres on your car? After they’ve blown out on the motorway or every week? Or do you change them when the treads have worn down to a certain level that makes them illegal? That’s condition monitoring at its most basic and when utilised effectively engineering and maintenance teams can adopt more proactive approaches.

If you buy a piece of equipment, it’s going to have a certain amount of downtime over a year or its life cycle. As an engineering manager, the decision you need to make is whether that downtime happens when you choose it or when the machine chooses it?

You can handle this most effectively by coupling digital procurement solutions including vendor-managed inventory services with condition monitoring and maintenance solutions.

By using maintenance solutions, you get better insight into when maintenance is going to be required, then through procurement and inventory solutions, you can make sure you have the resources needed available. This combined approach can add so much value.

For more on the benefits that maintenance solutions can bring to MRO in your organisation, check out “From condition monitoring to condition-based maintenance”.