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Value-added development

04 September 2019

Charlotte Stonestreet caught up with RS Component's Pete Malpas to learn about the company's evolution from distributor to all-round value-added technical service provider

When Pete Malpas took on the role of Regional Managing Director, Northern Europe at RS Components towards the end of last year it seemed like a natural progression. Malpas was part of the team which, under the leadership of now President EMEA at RS, Mike England, helped formulate the the company’s current five-to-seven year development plan, which will see RS evolve from a high service distributor to a high service value-added technical distributor.

At just over three years into the plan, RS is says Malpas, reaping the rewards. However, he sees the business as still pretty much being at the beginning of what it is possible to achieve, and key to this is continuing to change the way that employees within RS think. “We really do have a have a huge opportunity here, and part of that is about getting people to think differently, to have that confidence and belief. It’s amazing, we are seeing now that success breeds success, our people are starting to look at the positive numbers and enjoy delivering a good result.”

Although Malpas himself does admit that it might come across as a bit cliched, it really is all about delivering the best possible end result for the customer. “What we’re really talking about here is, how do we create value for our customers? I think people are starting to feel good about it because they’re not just growing the figures, but they are seeing that they adding value to their customers. We’re not just selling more widgets any more, we’re actually providing a better solution for the customer.”

In the past, while RS has always had a fantastic reputation for being able to provide a quick response – indeed for many years the company’s logo was ‘Mr Speedy’ – Malpas feels that it did not necessarily aspire to the first or strategic choice for its customers, something that is the business is now flipping on this head.

“In terms of quick response, absolutely, we need to keep that, we need to keep the customer experience at the heart of everything we do, but we also need to wrap that up with a more solutions-oriented approach – whether that be a procurement- , inventory-, or engineering-based solution, or any combination there of – and it’s a very different sort of conversation that we are having with customers these days.”

it’s a very different sort of conversation that we are having with customers these days

Complementing RS’s newly enhanced service propositions, last year parent company Elcomponents acquired outsourced MRO solutions provider, IESA. “Where customers are looking to outsource all of their indirect procurement, particularly in industrial MRO, and also often the management of their engineering stores, IESA acts as a network orchestrator, sitting between the end customer and a myriad of suppliers and vendors.” IESA is retaining standalone status with the Electrocomponents group and RS acts as one of its many suppliers.

Another recent acquisition, Monition, is a UK-based pioneer in the design, development and application of reliability and condition-monitoring systems. With more than 50 field-based engineers, the Monition has access to a huge a mount of data which, says Malpas, will provide a platform upon which RS can look at building some interesting new software solutions.

Commenting on where both acquisitions sit within the enterprise structure, Malpas says: “At one end of the scale you’ve got IESA which is providing a service proposition around a straight forward outsourcing model and at the other end you’ve got Monition who are really providing the technical compentency and capability needed to have much richer engineering and application based discussions with our customers.”

SME applicable

And while it might seem that much of this is aimed at larger corporate customers, Malpas is quick to point out that the technical consultancy and engineering offering being developed are equally, if not more, applicable to SMEs. “In fact, if anything I would say it’s potentially more valuable to the SME,” he asserts. “Bigger corporates tend to have a bit more resource available to do it themselves, whereas the SME doesn’t always have that available, so for us provide it on a subcontract or third party basis I think is a more attractive proposition for them.”

This seems particularly pertinent in the face of the skills shortage being faced by the engineering sector as a whole, something that RS is also addressing in a range of measures championing STEM education. The company has 150 STEM ambassadors who recently took part in the inaugural STEMFEST event at the UK headquarters in Corby. Over three days, 500 local school children attended and were able to get hands-on with areas such as 3D printing, code robotics and DrillArt.

“Engineering has such an important and exciting role role to play, and that’s why we are trying to get everyone in the company to think about how to we inspire people to ‘make amazing happen’,” says Malpas. “It’s a journey we are on fundamentally because we are a distributor of engineering equipment, but if we can can combine that with, for example, the DesignSpark community or letting people have free software to design amazing things, or getting young people coding then hopefully we can make a difference and ultimately create some more value for our customers and the engineering sector as a whole.”