Chris Cruise, industry sector manager for utilities at RS, shares his insights into how MRO suppliers can help the industry to face key challenges
“I think it’s fair to say that utilities companies need to keep the lights on and keep the water flowing,” says Chris Cruise, an Industry Sector Manager at RS, “but there’s also more to it than that. There’s lots going on that we don’t see or get to know about.”
Cruise and his team are responsible for the utilities sector, including customers in power generation, power distribution, telecoms, water and waste. Here he shares his expertise on the indirect procurement challenges facing the sector alongside insights into how Maintenance, Repairs and Operations (MRO) suppliers can help these regulated industries to thrive.
1. Pressure on infrastructure
There’s massive pressure on utilities infrastructure. Take water. There’s an imbalance between the amount of water that rains in the UK and where it remains. Moving that water around the country is a challenge that I don’t think most people even know about.
It’s the same with power and telecommunications. Ensuring availability across the country is one of many challenges, especially as in some of the industries, businesses face fines if there’s no supply for a certain amount of time.
As a result, these businesses want a supplier who is cost effective and can provide goods quickly.
2. Supply chain concerns
Utility companies provide essential amenities, meaning it’s vital that they avoid any form of downtime that could affect end users. Disruption to services to the public has major financial implications, with regulators able to fine water and power companies when outages occur.
To avoid such situations, they need robust supply chains. They want strong and stable suppliers that they can trust to deliver, and provide good value for money, so they can maintain service levels.
3. The ESG agenda
All utility subsectors are regulated industries and there is now huge pressure from their regulators to reduce impact on the environment.
ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) therefore features heavily in the tender process, which all procurement contracts must go through.
"Social benefit is becoming more important too"Chris Cruise, Industry Sector Manager, RS
Social benefit is becoming more important too. In some tenders, suppliers must demonstrate how if they work with that business, they will bring value to its community – and that commitment is monitored and measured.
Fortunately for RS, our focus on sustainability and good governance with our products and our supply chain mirrors this agenda.
4. Ensuring value
The regulations governing utility companies also mean that they have an obligation to create value for the public.
This makes the RS Pro range very popular with businesses across all the subsectors within utilities. There are RS Pro products for pretty much all categories that utilities customers purchase from and the products are industrial quality, which is what the customers want – and it gives them great value.
5. Consolidating suppliers
Digitalisation is becoming more common within the sector as a way of supporting supplier consolidation.
"Less issues, less errors, a better experience for end users – and it’s more cost effective"Chris Cruise, Industry Sector Manager, RS
Power generation and water companies, for example, have made significant investments into enterprise and resource planning systems. We can seamlessly integrate their procurement process and ours, meaning less issues, less errors, a better experience for end users – and it’s more cost effective.
6. Managing remote sites
Water and power companies especially tend to have many small remote sites that make supplier innovations, especially in terms of value-added solutions, extremely valuable.
At RS, for instance, we have numerous RS ScanStock® locations within the water industry. This vendor-managed inventory service is ideal for remote sites because we check the stock and replenish it saving time for maintenance engineers to know the parts that they require are available.
7. Strengthening resilience
A key phrase in the utilities sector is resilience. This is in part about total cost of ownership, but there’s a strong emphasis on the health of an asset too. At the end of the day, unplanned failure is costly, especially in regulated industries where service outages lead to fines. Thus, it makes sense to have robust maintenance schedules in place to mitigate unscheduled downtime.
"We’re seeing more and more interest in maintenance solutions that can help build resilience"Chris Cruise, Industry Sector Manager, RS
This means that as a supplier, we’re seeing more and more interest in maintenance solutions that can help build resilience. We can support with on-site condition monitoring through services such as lubrication and oil analysis – and provide all the parts and products then needed to mitigate against future failure.
8. Accessing expertise
Our team has a wealth of sector-specific expertise and in the past, we’ve held collaborative events that bring utility customers together to share knowledge and insights. My ambition is to do more of these as we’ve a lot to offer – even more so now Liscombe is part of the RS Group.
Liscombe is a specialist provider of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for heavy industry and given the hazards faced by workers in power, telecoms, water and waste, there’s a huge need for the right protection. This acquisition, therefore, means RS is even better placed to meet the needs of utility firms, whether that’s with products, technical support, digital solutions or other value-added services.