COVID-19 has put enormous pressure on the Food and Beverage, Packaging and Pharmaceuticals industries as they work to meet increased demand. So, getting Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) right is vital for the health of the nation as well as the business.

The products of the Process sector are always in constant demand. But the pandemic has increased the pressures thanks to disrupted food supply chains and the need to get vital medicines to patients. A boom in online shopping has also created huge demand for packaging.

Whether it’s loaves of bread, packaging or medical treatments, unplanned outages have effects far beyond the plant. It adds up to a lot of pressure on Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) professionals in the sector.

The Food and Beverage industry faces the twin challenges of keeping quality high while minimising costs. If processes breakdown, supermarket shelves swiftly empty and the costs to the business multiply.

The UK’s packaging, plastics and paper industries face a lot of competition, margins are often tight and raw material costs vary hugely with currency fluctuations. Which means there is significant pressure on organisations to find efficiencies to help their bottom line, and MRO is an area where significant savings can be made.

In Pharmaceuticals, a serious breakdown can literally be a matter of life and death for patients. And the high value of products means that stopping production for unplanned repairs can cost millions of pounds.

But MRO professionals in the Process sector have a knowledgeable partner in RS Components, with a team who understand their pressures and priorities, and who have the services and tools to help them.

Within Food and Beverage, customers are looking to make the right quality product at the best price point. Essential to this is ensuring that production is working to its maximum efficiency.

The food and drink industry is the UK’s largest single manufacturing sector, contributing more than £31 billion to the economy. It employs 450,000 people and its exports totalled £23 billion in 2018.

Optimising stock levels
In a process business, it’s vital to hold the right levels of both critical stock and consumables to ensure minimal downtime. Any stockholding carries a cost to the business, so it’s important to keep a tight control on the value of the stock.

"Planned, and especially unplanned, maintenance must have as little effect on operations as possible"

It is essential to keep operations running as close to 100% as possible. Planned, and especially unplanned, maintenance must have as little effect on operations as possible, which means suppliers must have key parts in stock and be able to deliver them to site quickly.

Where factories have ageing assets which require regular maintenance, companies need to be ahead of the curve on automation and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Smart factories with cloud-based condition monitoring systems analysing data can predict when machinery will fail.

At all times, the cost of parts must be balanced against the usually greater costs of a plant outage which include not only lost production, but staff and management time spent rectifying a fault.

If a sudden problem does occur, RS Local branches across the UK offer a click-and-collect service with components available in as little as 15 minutes from the order being placed.

To ensure you always have the parts you need without overstocking, RS Components can help optimise the level of MRO stock held on site. RS ScanStock™ is a managed inventory service, where RS Components takes responsibility for controlling and replenishing products for a business, freeing up the customer’s employees to concentrate on core activities.

Always vigilant
Cloud-based condition monitoring not only allows engineers to spot potential failures before they happen but provides performance data to schedule routine maintenance more effectively.

As well as controlling costs and avoiding outages, businesses must adhere to strict product safety regulations. So, it’s important that they work with MRO suppliers who understand the challenges.

They must be extremely vigilant around contamination and traceability, whether it’s what goes into the products, or the lubricants and greases which help keep production runs operating.

Employee safety is another key factor. The introduction of new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) regulations in 2018 increased the need for process companies to work with knowledgeable suppliers such as RS Components.

"The financial pressures faced by MRO professionals in process industries mirror those across the MRO landscape"

The Indirect Procurement Report 2020 – The evolution of MRO procurement, produced by RS Components and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), found that the two biggest business pressures were reducing operational budgets (59%), and improving asset performance (33%).

Focusing on the indirect procurement cost of industrial supplies for MRO can help businesses achieve significant savings − if done correctly. Although ad hoc spend is a necessary part of any MRO process, monitoring and managing it is the key to a successful plant.

E-procurement also has a role to play in managing impromptu purchases. RS Purchasing Manager™ empowers engineers to get the ad hoc products they need while still keeping a high-level view on that expenditure.

RS Components has unique insights into process industries because it enables businesses every day to remain fully operational, which in turn results in more efficient, profitable and productive organisations.

RS Components 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