The right MRO supplier can help process manufacturers to address key challenges, says Craig Stasik, an industry sector manager at RS

What are indirect procurement professionals looking for from their Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) suppliers? The RS & CIPS 2021 Indirect Procurement Report, offers some insights.

Of the 1,300 respondents to the report’s survey, 71% said delivery on time was a key performance indicator (KPI) they used to monitor the performance of MRO suppliers. Other KPIs include quality (65%) and availability (47%).

These responses came as no surprise to Craig Stasik, industry sector manager for Process at RS. On the contrary, these KPIs reflect the indirect procurement priorities that his customers in the food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, paper, plastics and packaging industries sectors value.

Here Stasik shares his insights into the challenges facing process manufacturers and how the right MRO suppliers can help alleviate these problems.

1. Availability and reliability
This has been a real challenge since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and related supply chain issues. However, throughout the last couple of years, at RS, we have supported our customer base to ensure supply – which also ensures that they have seamless control of their business and production. In the process world, manufacturers need that certainty.

2. Total cost of ownership
I don’t think it’ll be a surprise to anyone, but inflation is one of the biggest challenges for process customers right now, as it is for pretty much all businesses.

As a result, we’re looking at how we can mitigate costs. Whenever you talk to a customer, if they can get a product that does the same job for a lower price point, they are interested – but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the saying goes, so the product needs to stand up to the claim.

It certainly does with the RS Pro range. RS Pro products are tried and tested and will do exactly what they’re supposed to for as long as an equivalent branded product but at a lower price. Customers who use RS Pro products have seen this for themselves and we like to be able to deliver real tangible savings for them.

"It isn’t just about the purchase price"Craig Stasik, Industry Sector Manager, RS

It isn’t just about the purchase price, either. Total cost of ownership is now more important than ever, taking into account other direct and indirect costs involved on top of what you pay to buy an item – including time spent on admin and processing. With the cost of products increasing across the board, and energy prices increasing too, it becomes vital to think about what you do with a product to make it more cost effective.

This has become another way for us to help our customers. It’s a different route to achieve the same goal, another way for them to keep the product they need but, with a bit of innovative thought, keep the overall cost down.

3. Protecting people and products
PPE is important to all customers but it’s vital to process manufacturers, especially in the food and beverage industry. In this sector, PPE is about both protecting the person from risks and protecting the food from people. Clearly the manufacture doesn’t want a hair or part of a blue vinyl glove stuck in the product at the end of the process.

RS Solutions can meet these needs as we have acquired a huge level of expertise through our recent acquisition of specialist PPE providers Needlers and Liscombe. Needlers, for example, can cater for anything health and safety related in the food space. We have all bases covered in that respect.

4. Valuing and retaining the workforce
Labour shortages are also adding to costs for our process customers at the moment. Within manufacturing, although there’s lots of automation, large portions of businesses remain heavily reliant on labour. Think about food production, with workers putting the cherries on top of cakes or sitting either side of the belt to build up sandwiches.

We’ve seen a shift in dynamics because customers are having to think creatively about employee retention. Many customers are looking to kit their employees in something more than the basic acceptable PPE. More are foregoing cheap and cheerful in favour of branded clothing that helps to make their employees feel part of the business. Giving them better kit so they kit so they feel looked after has been a significant in the last eighteen months – and we can cater for those requirements.

5. Insight and development
One of the complaints I hear most consistently is about not having good enough data to be able to see what’s required and when. The reality is that some purchases are so sporadic, bought in ones and twos, that it’s impossible to know even when you have the data how you can get some tangible savings from it. It’s difficult to benchmark when there’s such a long tail of products in process manufacturing.

However, we can put preventative measures in place to ensure the ones and twos you are buying in are planned and premeditated rather than paying for next day delivery or missing out on your category discount scheme.

Value-added solutions can also help here. At RS, we can provide value-added solutions that work in all kinds of process environments. Take our RS ConnectPoint® offering. We can just drop a standalone unit in place for the workforce to order the products they need right in front of them through our systems. They don’t need any hardware and the prices are loaded to the invoice points.

There’s also RS Maintenance solutions that can really enable manufacturers to function more efficiently and effectively. We can provide the customer with foresight such as how often a particular part typically breaks down – and then when it’s vibrating more than it did the previous week, know it should be checked. This drives the agenda for their repairs and maintenance teams and cuts out a lot of the problems that stop production and cause their businesses to grind to a halt.

Being able to plan for those breakdowns is key part of what we have available to support process manufacturers and customers in all sectors.

For more on the importance of PPE in the food and beverage sector, check out our article on the value of PPE expertise.