B Hepworth, the world’s largest supplier of windscreen wipers to the rail and marine industries, uses RS Local to cut onsite inventory, operating in a lean and just-in-time way that follows the Japanese manufacturing principle of Kanban.

Procurement teams and engineers face several challenges regarding the maintenance, repair and operation of their organisation’s assets and facilities. The supply chain for indirect materials is complex due to the number of stakeholders involved, a fragmented supply base and the sheer number of products that are split across categories.

In addition, there is constant pressure from senior management to reduce costs. As one of the largest industrial suppliers, RS Components is in a unique position to understand the complex needs of its customers and to help these businesses streamline their processes and make cost efficiencies.

The crucial fact for organisations to appreciate is that with indirect procurement, process costs can be twice as much as the amount spent on the products themselves. So if your organisation spends £100,000 on purchasing products over the course of a year, you will spend a further £200,000 on processing, or ‘soft costs’. As such, there is significant value in reducing process costs rather than focusing on the purchase price of individual items.

The challenge
Established in 1868, B Hepworth now has customers for its market-leading windscreen wiper systems in 55 countries. The company specialises in the rail and maritime sectors where their products ensure train drivers and seafarers are able to get a clear view of their often-hazardous operating environment.

In order to be able to respond quickly to customer requirements, the company needed a sizeable stockholding that was costly to maintain. “The major issue that we previously had is that we had to stock a large range of electronic components,” says B Hepworth General Manager Mark Wise.

“So, the stockholding was expensive for us. We then had to organise those kits on the workbench. And all of this was a very inefficient process.”

In order to improve customer responsiveness and maintain its keen pricing, B Hepworth needed an efficient new process.

The solution
Working with the RS Local branch in Birmingham, B Hepworth developed a kitting solution that delivers all the electronic components needed to make the controllers for a wiper system in a compartmentalised suitcase.

“RS quality-check them and it’s all labelled up in one small package. That package comes in to us, it goes straight to the workbench, and we’re able to open the package and start working straight away in manufacturing our controllers,” says B Hepworth General Manager Mark Wise.

“It saves us an enormous amount of time and organisation, and we don’t have to hold any of the components anymore. The empty container, when we finished producing those controllers, is then sent back to RS and that’s the signal for them to refill and send the product back to us. So, it operates on a proper Kanban basis.”

Kanban is a system for visualising work as it moves through a process. Devised in Japan, Kanban – literal translation “billboard” – allows users to display both the workflow and show the progress of work passing through it. It is used to identify bottlenecks and optimise processes.

The RS Local network of branches across the UK offers same-day or next-working-day delivery on a range of products. They also offer bespoke, value-added services which truly save time and money for customers.

“One of the services we offer is consolidated deliveries,” says Jayson Holloway, Manager of RS Local, Birmingham. “You, as the customer, can place multiple orders during the day. At RS Local we consolidate your parts together so you receive them in one shipment. This is a massive time-saver to a customer.

“We also offer a totally free delivery service for kitting which eradicates packaging and it’s great for green, environmentally-friendly customers.”


The outcome
Because RS Components’ kitting service delivers parts just in time to allow B Hepworth to manufacture and dispatch systems to its customers, the company is able to achieve faster turnaround times. It has also made big savings on its stockholdings.

For B Hepworth, RS Components provides a total solution that meets their needs. “The items that we purchase from RS extend beyond the electrical components,” says General Manager Mark Wise. “We take pneumatic components and mechanical and PPE (personal protective equipment) and many other items.

“These are available to us on a next-day-service basis. And in some instances, we can have same-day service in the event of an emergency or really urgent order. It’s a full service and keeps the supply route open for us.”

The RS kitting service means that B Hepworth uses just one order number, raises just one PO and processes just one invoice. The kits attract a discount, since they are bought together.

It works on the same principle as other RS Components stock-holding solutions, like ScanStock. “This service is great for a customer who has limited capacity in their warehouse and it also guarantees same-day or next-working-day delivery,” says RS Local’s Jayson Holloway

“We hold stock for you to call off as and when you require it. It also frees up working capital because you don’t have to pay for the goods all in one go,” he adds.