Editor's Choice

Disruptive technologies to deal with disruption

January 2023 Editor's Choice News

COVID-19 has impacted, and continues to impact, every aspect of our lives. Across industry, widespread factory closures and drastically restricted logistics globally have meant that downstream manufacturers soon found they had major supply chain disruptions. Many had to shift swiftly to using predominantly online sourcing and procurement services. Suppliers had to fast-track the expansion of their online sales and services. Transportation and logistics became a major challenge for everyone.

In essence, to tackle the challenges, virtually every aspect of the business, and throughout industry globally, required some form of additional digital technology – often disruptive in nature. Clearly, businesses that had embraced digital transformation were better positioned to adapt. Since the start, we have seen, and continue to see, a significant increase in B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) business, including eCommerce, not only from existing clients but also from new and occasional customers.

Brian Andrew.

Managing director for RS South Africa, Brian Andrew, says that RS was ready to respond quickly and decisively to the COVID-19 crisis in 2020. “In the main, the company provided continued support to customers worldwide, initially prioritising health and allied services, and those working on supplying critical and essential equipment and infrastructure. Supply chain continuity was largely ensured, as the crisis management team was able to plan and act swiftly, shifting inventory around a global network of 14 distribution centres (DCs) to where it would be most needed. As a single point of service and support with a broad range of over 650 000 stocked electronic and industrial products and solutions, RS was able to continue to satisfy customer needs,” he said.

RS is a UK-based multinational company that is also listed on the London Stock Exchange. The company’s strong digital, omni-channel offering was easily expandable to support increased online sales. Through communication and collaboration, purchasing staff were able to extend support for key customers in essential businesses. By encouraging a digital mindset and connecting teams working remotely – while the DCs rapidly adjusted to operating with social distancing and appropriate PPE – employees were inspired to go the extra mile.

Andrew also added that the key drivers are changing customer expectations, the need for greater efficiency, and the realisation that data can be used to spot trends. “Ease of use, AI-based personalisation tools and online real-time sales support have brought us repeat business. Many businesses have suffered financially due to COVID-19 and this has increased the emphasis on improving efficiency,” added Andrew.

eProcurement is a key starting point, and demand is growing for tools such as RS PunchOut and RS PurchasingManager. PunchOut is a tool that integrates into your own eProcurement system, giving you quick and easy access to products and your purchasing information. PurchasingManager is a free, web-based order management tool that provides a complementary workflow and spend management system. Customers have found that ease of use and process streamlining have produced significant benefits, in particular by cutting costs and increasing staff efficiency.

RS also offers eOrdering and eInvoicing, which are extensively used by some of SA’s largest beverage and automotive manufacturers. These value-added solutions automate the procurement process for small and medium orders for MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) products, helping to save valuable production time.

One of the major causes of hesitation in the wider adoption of digital acceleration is the change it engenders in the workplace. The aim is to shift from manual to digital tasks, remove low-value repetitive jobs and improve employee productivity. Supporting people through this change requires a behavioural shift in re-educating employees throughout the company. The pandemic has demonstrated that dramatic changes in working practices (working from home, for example) can be made with positive results for all. The key is ‘test and learn’. Make evolutionary, small changes in a structured way. Work with the people to see that the change is achieving the required effect.

For sure, digitalisation will cause disruption to processes and major changes to culture and working practices, but COVID-19 has certainly provided us with a painful demonstration of how much greater the cost of disruption could be without it.


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