THE INTERVIEW SEPTEMBER 2019
MM: Each company is at a different stage
of the Industry 4.0 ‘journey’. How do you
tailor your offering to suit that?
PM: If you look at the pyramid of our UK
customers, we have a very broad customer base.
There’s a plethora of customers that spend a
relatively small amount of money with us. What
they want is a fantastic, mainly digital-based
experience where they can find the product they
want and get out quickly. As you go up through
the pyramid, towards the massive corporate
customers we serve, they are looking for more
value. They are looking to consolidate their
purchases with fewer suppliers. Those customers
are then able to be more demanding, asking
the supplier ‘what else can you give us?’ That’s
where we see things like purchasing & inventory
solutions, e-commerce and vending coming to
the fore. When you get to the very top, certain
customers are essentially looking to outsource
their MRO, for example, to a third party.
MM: Could outsourcing of MRO and
other shopfloor operations become
more popular in the future?
PM: To go to a fully outsourced model needs a
certain scale to make it viable. When you drop
down a level, if you haven’t got the volumes to
outsource, there are other methods available, such
as vending solutions. We break
our product offerings down
into three categories: runners,
repeaters and strangers.
● Runners are the types of item
that move really frequently.
They tend to be low-cost items
like nuts, bolts and washers
that need a vendor-managed
inventory (VMI), open-bin type
● Repeaters are higher-value
items. These may be more
suitable for vending.
● Strangers are parts that
would be considered ‘insurance
spares’. They’re for critical bits
of machinery, and may never
be used, but if the machine fails
it will cause a business-critical
problem. That’s where you need
a local engineering store, and the
potential to be fully outsourced.
can be applied throughout the
pyramid; inventory outsourcing
is a bit more complex. If
you’re an SME, and put a VMI
solution with a mobile engineer
who comes in once a week to
replenish the runners, and a
vending solution to replenish
the repeaters, that might suffice.
If it’s a big site, the scale might
warrant full outsourcing.
MM: How are RS looking
to combat the skills gap?
PM: Over and above supplying
‘stuff’ to customers, we have a
role to play in promoting the
industry, which we take very
seriously. The more we can do to
encourage engineers, inventors,
technicians and entrepreneurs,
the better. To help with this,
we’re trying to encourage as
many of our colleagues as
possible to become STEM
ambassadors; we currently have
about 150 of them, who have
signed up in under two years.
The ambassadors commit to
spending time in schools giving
something back to the industry.
We have a syllabus that is free
for teachers to download and is
designed to make engineering
and manufacturing seem like
a cool industry to be involved
in. The types of jobs available
in the industry are changing,
and it’s a fascinating time to be
part of it. When I was at school,
a lot of teachers didn’t really
understand what ‘engineering’
is. As a schoolkid, you are
very impressionable to what’s
around you – if your teachers
aren’t inspiring you and if you
aren’t exposed to something, it
becomes a black hole.
MM: What does the future
have in store for RS?
PM: We’re just launching a new
global strategy, which is basically
more of the same! We’re seeing
our customers consolidating
more of their spend with fewer
suppliers, which means we
need to look at what happens to
our product range – does it get
broader? Are there other areas
of technology we should be
exploring? The way in which we
interact with customers around
the procurement experience
will change. In short, we’ll be
offering more products, better
ways to buy them and more
value-add solutions that will see
us working more in partnership
is looking to
change the way
with their MRO
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