A White Paper report offers insight and analysis into the state of play for current and future MRO procurement globally. The survey, conducted among 851 procurement professionals – all members of the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply – covers the opportunities and pressures procurement professionals face around key areas including innovation, inventory management and supplier knowledge.

The survey is the second from RS, following UK market research conducted in 2017. This latest research involved global respondents from sectors including manufacturing, public sector, energy, logistics & retail, transport & defence and technology, covering job roles from operational through to director and senior level. It focuses on the challenges and opportunities for indirect procurement and MRO supplies – a growing area facing significant and ongoing change.

The White Paper report highlights include:

  • The need to reduce operational budgets was the biggest pressure faced by procurement professionals, cited by 55% of respondents. This was followed by reducing inventory costs (52%), and improving asset performance (42%) as top concerns
  • The biggest day-to-day challenge for respondents was ensuring contract compliance with preferred suppliers (47%), closely followed by maintaining ageing assets (46%)
  • Despite improving asset performance and maintaining ageing assets being the biggest day-to-day challenges, only 7% of respondents said their company has a strategy in place for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). However, the growing appetite and enthusiasm for new and emerging technology is evident, as 53% of respondents said that they were having conversations with suppliers around new product innovations
  • Within the UK, the growing use of managed inventory services from suppliers was confirmed: 68% of the survey’s respondents said managed inventory services improved business by reducing the time spent raising individual orders, providing better visibility of stock and spend, and improving productivity
  • Respondents who felt pressured to secure sustainable and ethical products was up from 25% in the UK in 2017’s research, to 31% in 2018. The global figure stands at 36%
  • 32% of respondents rated counterfeit items as a significant problem. The figures were even higher for small (39%) and medium-sized businesses (37%)
  • Achieving stakeholder alignment and managing stakeholders was raised as an on-going pressure, with the research highlighting that 28% of respondents are struggling with stakeholder alignment in the MRO category. Encouragingly, the number of UK respondents citing high alignment increased to 38% (from 26% in 2017) and the overall global figure stands at 42%, suggesting an improvement, although the problem is far from solved
  • Concern over Brexit has increased since the UK research conducted in 2017: 38% of respondents were concerned about how Brexit would impact their role, this figure is now 53% amongst UK respondents while globally it is 41%.

Mike England, EMEA President, RS Components, said: “The research findings reflect the conversations that we’re having with customers, and shine a light on indirect procurement and MRO supplies. The results particularly demonstrate that change remains a key concern in MRO procurement, where teams are being pushed harder than ever to deliver savings, something a coordinated supplier strategy is essential to achieving. Reducing operational and inventory costs requires careful management, and ideally, an organisation should work with a fixed group of trusted suppliers that can provide all the MRO materials they need.

“While the average order size in MRO procurement is small, the time required to make the purchase significantly adds to its cost. Part of that is because organisations are dealing with too many suppliers without working to a streamlined process. Streamlining suppliers reduces the possibility of off-contract spend, ensures controlled pricing and means that less stock has to be held on site, since the supplier can be relied upon to deliver products quickly when needed. Additionally, when it comes to ethical procurement and avoidance of counterfeit products, organisations should be wary about making purchases outside of a trusted supplier network.”

The report also highlights another hot topic, the Internet of Things (IoT), which presents huge opportunities for organisations but isn’t being capitalised on at present. Helen Alder, Head of Knowledge and Procurement, CIPS said. “I still think we’re at the start of the IoT journey and, while it might develop quite rapidly, that’s not what I’ve seen so far. Organisations are aware of the technology and are looking at applications but, as the research shows, not many have any sort of solid strategy in place yet.”

England believes that this is also reflected in customers he speaks to: “We’re having lots of conversations with engineers and a lot of them are seeing the industry 4.0 trend, but they haven’t worked out how they’re going to embrace it on the shop floor. I think there is a role for companies like RS to help bridge that gap by providing examples of the latest technology, demonstrating innovation, and then providing insight into how the technology can be used to improve MRO strategy.

“For instance, one of the key applications IIoT could be used for in an MRO setting is helping organisations move from a reactive or even preventative maintenance approach to a predictive maintenance strategy, in which machines are monitored and alerted to required maintenance well before they fail. Engineers and procurement teams won’t attempt a large-scale overhaul of all their equipment and processes in one go, so a phased test and learn approach is the most sensible way to explore the benefits of new technology. However, it’s important that companies get moving with this test because while progress is relatively slow now, the pace of change will speed up over the next two to five years, and anyone burying their head in the sand will be left behind,” he added.

RS will use the research White Paper as a blueprint for change. In addition to covering research outcomes and providing results analysis, the White Paper outlines MRO strategies that procurement and supply professionals can employ to help achieve success.

Helen Alder concluded: “If you’re trying to add value and to do something differently to improve your organisation, a big part of the answer is to look outside your company and talk to your suppliers, other non-competitive businesses and organisations like CIPS. Suppliers are particularly useful because they will also have knowledge of what other companies are doing and can share that best practice with you.” 

RS Components launched Connected Thinking in 2016, an online information portal offering advice and best practice for organisations, giving them inspiration and practical insight on the topic of MRO procurement. Connecting Thinking features senior sector, RS and Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) experts – with which RS has a knowledge partnership.


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