RS Components and Allied Electronics & Automation are the trading brands of Electrocomponents plc, the global distributor for engineers. The company offers more than 650,000 industrial and electronic products, sourced from 2,500 leading suppliers, and provide a wide range of value-added services to over one million customers. With operations in 32 countries, RS Components trades through multiple channels and ships around 50,000 parcels a day.
In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News, Syed Suroor Anwar, Vice President, Asia Pacific, Strategy, Product, Supplier, Pricing & Inventory Management for RS Components, talks about the manufacturing trends he’s seeing for the metalworking industry, and his outlook for the next year.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR COMPANY’S KEY COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES?
Syed Suroor Anwar (SA): RS offers a range of value-added services that offers customers the ability to reduce costs, improve efficiency and get the latest and market leading solutions. These include the RS eProcurement platform, which is one of the key Industry 4.0 support and assists with clients’ sourcing costs, consolidate users purchasing processes, and saves time for the users; and RS Product Plus solution, which helps consolidating users’ supplier database for long tail requirements, leverages spend, speeds up sourcing, tightens purchasing controls and sources all the products that our clients need via RS Components in build catalogue functions.
RS also offers a private label product like called RS PRO that helps customers in saving costs through a high-quality range backed up with a three-year warranty and a very attractive price comparing to branded products.
All together resulting in reducing total costs of ownership and most importantly let our clients focus on what matters for them.
Last but not least, DesignSpark is RS Components’ free online design community and resource centre for makers, students and design engineers sharing content ranging from designs & prototypes to final products.
WHAT SORT OF CHALLENGES ARE YOU SEEING IN THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY?
SA: Some of the key challenges we see in the metalworking industry are related to the overall visibility and maturity of the supply chain. With increasing costs and competitive market, there is a huge pressure on our customers to operate the supply chain more effectively and take out unwanted costs like inventory, purchasing, logistics, and more. Lack of visibility can also cause long delays and unproductive downtime in facilities.
The labour situation in metalworking industries remain volatile with low retention and lack of qualified candidates, hence, pushing the companies towards usage of more advanced technologies to help operations run faster and better, and eventually move towards Industry 4.0.
RS has a significant portfolio of advanced products and technologies that can help customers in modernising their infrastructure and overcoming the risks.
WHAT NEW TECHNOLOGY APPLICATIONS HAVE YOU SEEN EMERGING OVER THE PAST YEAR THAT YOU THINK WILL GREATLY IMPACT THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY?
SA: Digitalisation: In order to maintain the overall operational efficiency and fully utilise the capacity, the metalworking industry is moving towards a connected digital solution. To break through the human ability bottleneck in monitoring complex systems and perform extensive real-time calculations, digitisation became, perhaps, the only solution for the current seemingly dead end.
Digitalisation, combined with the modernisation of the customer channels and usage of e-commerce to generate demand, and coordinating the supply cycle with usage of digitally generated data, will help supply chain professionals in effectively managing their supply chain from end to end.
3D printing and additive manufacturing: The advancement in this technology will help print produce prototypes, small production runs, and a variety of parts without going through a lengthy design to build cycle, hence, improving lead times and saving a lot of costs. The technology for metals is still in its infancy but has a significant growth potential in the coming years with the development of desktop metal printers.
Automation and AI: This has generally been adopted in order to drive more efficiency in operations and to improve quality and inspection with usage of imaging technology, providing customers with better lead time and higher quality products while reducing the operating costs. This can also open the doors for improving asset utilisation and 24×7 operations. This trend is going to be the biggest driver for profitability for metalworking companies in a volatile and a highly priced, competitive market.
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY NOW IN TERMS INDUSTRY 4.0?
SA: Industry 4.0 is a reality and is a being embraced by the companies in the metalworking industry, but the trend is far behind other sectors like manufacturing, semiconductor industry, and others. But with the added pressure on costs and volatility of the market, we will see a significant uptake in the coming future.
The biggest area of influence and that is lacking behind is the supply chain, and companies need to move away from the traditional ways of managing it and embrace the latest technology to provide faster production, incredible accuracy, and excellent customer service. Digitisation of the supply chain is a must in order to maintain flexibility in operations and demand supply parity.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN MARKET FOR METALWORKING DEVELOPING OVER THE NEXT YEAR?
SA: Southeast Asia is a strategic growth area for the metalworking industry due to the availability of skilled labour, cheaper overhead costs, and sustainable supply chain. Together with this, most of the companies are pushing for smarter manufacturing facilities, high-end production, and Industry 4.0, hence, making it a significant opportunity area.
These is an increasing digital uptake in Southeast Asia customers, and that provides the companies end to end visibility of their supply chain. With the push toward Industry 4.0, it is only going to increase.
Southeast Asia is also a mixed bag of geographies where markets like Singapore and Malaysia are moving towards more digitalisation and Industry 4.0 while the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are providing large companies with a good base for low-cost mass manufacturing, hence, opening the opportunity to grow and invest in metalworking sector.
WHICH INDUSTRY SEGMENTS IN ASEAN ARE YOU SEEING STRONG GROWTH IN 2020?
SA: We predict that ASEAN will be growing quiet significantly in the infrastructure industry and high-tech manufacturing industry because of the movement of industries from China to Southeast Asia due to the current political situation. We also anticipate the turnaround of the semiconductor industry that will lead to a rise in machine building demand.
As most of these industries require a lot of transportation across multiple geographies, the maritime industry will be indirectly benefitted through the process.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE CUSTOMERS WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING THE SOLUTIONS TO THEIR METALWORKING PROCESSES?
SA: I would suggest the customers to be open minded in choosing and using the new technologies as this can become your competitive advantage in the overall cut-throat industry.
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