Sue Coenen, VP Supply Chain and Operations at RS Components answers some of the key questions on how engineers can unlock and benefit from supply chain resilience.
What, according to you, are the crucial first steps to strengthen supply chain resilience in the current world?
What has become clear in recent months is that what were previously thought of as ‘once in a lifetime events’ that can threaten supply chain resilience are happening more frequently. The current pandemic, and other events: extreme weather, large-scale IT failures, and geo-political threats have drastically impacted the supply relationship between customer and supply partner.
To guard against this, it is important to carry out a full risk assessment across the supply chain so engineering businesses have a better understanding about their resilience. Critically, resilience should also be a key factor in the procurement decision making process alongside cost.
What about global versus local?
The past twelve months have highlighted the fragility of global supply chains. As a result, at RS Components, we are increasingly seeing a return to localisation when it comes to sourcing and supply arrangements so engineers can feel more confident about security of supply. We are being asked more questions around stock location and product manufacture and if this is UK-based, as opposed to being reliant upon global procurement models.
With 2,500 suppliers, multiple geographic locations and 500,000 individual SKUs, we have been able to respond to our customers’ demands through what has been a challenging period and have had the ability to flex our supply accordingly. This success has also been heavily based upon the strength of customer relationships so we can fully understand demand and manage the relations between supply partners and customer partners to ensure inventory is in the right place at the right time.
What other trends are occurring that support supply chain resilience?
There has been a move towards increased diversification in recent times with a call for a roster of different suppliers for the same core products. This is something RS Components has worked hard to build so that supply pressures can be handled. Engineers looking to increase resilience within their supply chain will need to follow suit to ensure they have multiple options when required.
We have also noticed the elevation of technical support as a function and an increased collaboration between strategic supplier tech teams and customers.
What about digitalisation?
End-to-end visibility of services and the use of a range of digital tools to help forecast future demand are some of the key benefits that a digital infrastructure can deliver to bolster supply chain resilience.
Digitised supply chains and procurement processes offer increased data-driven visibility and underpin agile decision making. As a strategic supplier, some of the tools we offer include eProcurement and digitised inventory management, as well as the use of condition monitoring and AI in the manufacturing space to help predict component failure and optimise operational efficiencies.