Just-in-time supply chains put huge pressure on manufacturing, steels and metals at the best of times. In the COVID-19 pandemic these pressures have intensified to an unprecedented degree. So, collaboration with trusted suppliers who have the knowledge and expertise to support business operations is vital.

As in all sectors, manufacturing, steels and metals face pressure on maintenance budgets, which means Maintenance, Repair, Operations (MRO) professionals must get the best value for every pound they spend. Equally important is availability and fast delivery of spares.

COVID-19 lockdowns forced some plants to close and everywhere, social distancing rules have meant new ways of working. The need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has added a new dimension to the needs of every company in the sector.

Indirect Procurement Report 2020 – The evolution of MRO procurement, compiled by RS with the support of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), found that 59% of MRO professionals said they faced pressure to reduce operational budgets.

Two-fifths identified the need to improve asset performance as a key business pressure. Nowhere is this truer than in manufacturing, where unplanned downtime can have damaging effects on the business.

“Continued economic uncertainty means companies are under pressure to reduce costs in all areas"

Continued economic uncertainty means companies are under pressure to reduce costs in all areas and this is leading to the increased use of external maintenance contractors in some factories.

The trend towards external contractors is also being driven by skill shortages in the maintenance workforce, which makes it ever more important to have an MRO supplier such as RS who is knowledgeable and able to respond quickly.

Who’s doing your purchasing?
Although a quarter of UK companies use vendor-managed inventory for fast-moving, low-value MRO parts, the use of external contractors can result in higher costs for ad hoc MRO purchases made outside agreed procurement policies.

Which is why strong local relationships between customers and the RS team are becoming ever more important. The customer needs to know that, whoever is doing the maintenance, the right parts will be available at the right time.

This is especially important when a breakdown occurs. The RS Local branch team can source components quickly and deliver them to site so that repairs can be carried out swiftly, avoiding prolonged downtime.

Some manufacturers struggle to avoid unplanned downtime because they do not have enough data about how their assets are performing. Condition monitoring would avoid significant lost production by giving advanced warning of component failures.

In addition, using cloud-based devices as part of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to monitor assets, allows companies to capture performance data which can be used to improve the scheduling of planned maintenance to avoid emergency shutdowns.

This is particularly the case in the steel industry which is facing unique challenges both in terms of deferred investment in new plant, and intense foreign competition. MRO budgets are reducing just as the importance of keeping existing plant operating increases, meaning MRO teams need all the support they can get.

Power of data
An already tough financial climate, made worse by the effects of the pandemic, and maintenance skill shortages present major challenges for all manufacturers.

“eProcurement empowers engineers to order exactly the parts they need while at the same time providing high-level visibility on expenditure for purchasing teams”

Steel producers are not alone in facing intense global competition. Even a large corporate facilities management company can find it hard to drive compliance with procurement policies as engineers at the coalface can tend to buy where they see fit without regard for agreed policies.

This type of ad hoc purchasing also risks causing maintenance overruns if engineers travel to collect parts from suppliers in congested cities and towns. Time is literally money and any minor price savings will be cancelled out by the much higher costs of extended downtime.

A good solution to this problem is to deploy eProcurement solutions such as RS PurchasingManager™, which ensures compliance with agreed spending limits while ensuring fast delivery of over 550,000 items.

eProcurement empowers engineers to order exactly the parts they need, while at the same time provides high-level visibility on expenditure for purchasing teams.

Being a value-added supply partner for manufacturing, steels and metals demands high levels of technical expertise, combined with an understanding of each customer’s business needs. The RS team does exactly that.

It’s also about sharing data about their procurement patterns to help them make informed commercial decisions. Only then can a supplier give customers total assurance that their MRO purchasing is being managed effectively.

RS have expert advisers on hand to talk through any MRO challenges you may have and can can give you examples of how we’ve helped organisations overcome them. If you would like to speak with one of them, please contact us here