PP Control & Automation has seen delays and downtime eliminated since adopting RS’s innovative ScanStock solution
End inefficient, costly procurement processes
Procurement teams and engineers face several challenges with how they source industrial consumables and manage their supply chain. With complexity coming from a number of stakeholders involved, a fragmented supply base and the range of products split across categories, there is the added pressure from senior management to reduce costs.
As one of the largest industrial suppliers, RS 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.
A large part of process costs can be due to inefficient inventory management. This particularly applies to low-value, fast moving industrial consumables. Overstocking, poor stock monitoring, shrinkage and availability issues lead to lost productivity and downtime.
PP Control & Automation, based in the West Midlands is Europe’s largest independent supplier of control and automation solutions. Working with the likes of Japanese firms Yamazaki and Ishida, it offers a complete outsourcing solution. It also assembles panels and machines for customers, allowing them to focus on the R&D side of the business.
PP Control & Automation sells around 3,000 different assemblies and buys in between 9,000 and 10,000 different components every year. The nature of its work means that it buys these parts and products from almost 600 manufacturers.
Given the number of component parts used on a daily basis, a number of which are low-value repeat purchases, PP Control & Automation needed support to provide a solution for a process that from sourcing to ordering to reconciling invoices was inefficient. It also needed help to improve inventory management.
“We were going through problems with our existing supplier, problems such as wrongly delivered items, inconsistent supply of products, too long to quote for parts,” explains Martin Allen, Purchasing Manager at PP Control & Automation. “We cannot not have those products available for use when we need them. They have to be there. Twenty-four hours is a long time if you consider that some of our products are supplied in, say, three days. In that context, losing 24 hours means a lot.”
In contrast, Allen admired the direction that RS was moving in, so the time seemed right to discuss with them the potential solutions that RS could offer.
As PP Control & Automation was already a long-standing customer, RS understood their business and, crucially, the depth of the product range that it used. However, in order to acquire a more strategic understanding of the firm, the RS team spent time with them, learning more about what they do and the challenges that they were facing.
The team advised that RS could help to consolidate suppliers, reduce duplication in source-to-pay processes and manage its fast-moving, low-value MRO supplies. In addition RS would takeover supply of the commodities using the ScanStock system. ScanStock involves RS providing a fully managed service, where it takes responsibility for controlling and replenishing agreed products, freeing up the customer to focus on other areas of the business.
In the case of PP Control and Automation, the contract involves management of around 800 SKUs on lineside Kanban cribs, with twice-weekly visits from RS.
RS also developed a bespoke barcode-based replenishment report, allowing PP Control and Automation to scan line orders into their MRP system – thereby removing keystrokes, saving time and increasing accuracy.
By using this approach, RS provides the latest Vendor Managed Inventory technology along with human expertise and interaction. This combination ensures an efficient system that also has the flexibility to incorporate feedback from the PP Control & Automation production team. The team know, for instance, if a forthcoming order requires a large number of a specific item and can request an order for this from the RS representative who works with them.
Moreover, this representative is based in a nearby RS branch, so decisions and deliveries can be made quickly. Having to send an item from further afield adds unnecessary – and costly – delays.
“Our relationship with RS has been through that local connection. We’re reliant on those people understanding what we want,” says Allen. “The fact that it’s coming out of the local place was great. It means something to the people at the branch in Birmingham. We aren’t just a number.
“The RS rep, Luke, will make the decision on our behalf. He’s basically a member of the purchasing team. Luke comes in, people know who he is and they’ll talk to him and say that there are things that they need and things that he needs to be aware of. You need that human interaction.”
The ScanStock solution has been in place at PP Control & Automation since the start of 2018 and the firm is pleased with the difference it has made. The new system has reduced the ordering process time and, vitally, also reduced operational downtime.
Allen is clear about the impact ScanStock has made. For him, it is about more than cost saving: “The cost of not having the product is far greater than the pence you would pay to actually have it. For the want of a nail, the kingdom was lost, as the saying goes.”
PP Control & Automation is so delighted with the system that RS has put in place that the company is keen to share its experience with others. “I’ve got one local company, and probably a second one as well, that plan to visit and I’ll go through what we do, why we do it and why this is an advantage,” states Allen. “It’s an open invitation.”