The electronics industry pundits have long touted the benefits of strong supply chain connectivity: stronger relationships, streamline logistics, the ability to effectively manage activities, increased efficiency, and, of course, reduced costs. The big question, though, is how an organization can get from the ideal to the real.
We sat down for a conversion with Matthew Ling, competency supply chain solution architect at RS Components. The electronics distributor is part of Electrocomponents PLC, which reached global revenues were £1.27 billion in the last fiscal year and reached the seventh spot in EBN’s 2015 Top 25 Global Franchised Distributor’s list. The distributor has 16 warehouses, 10 planning centers, and a million customers worldwide. The company recently took on the task of implementing Redwood Software's SAP Business Process Automation (BPA) to improve supply chain connectivity.
Using the platform, the company simplified the definition, monitoring, and analysis of business processes ranging from order-to-cash and procure-to-pay to supply chain management.
EBN: Please discuss the strategic importance of the supply chain for RS Components. What business goals are linked to the supply chain and its efficient operation for your organization?
Ling: With operations in 32 countries, RS Components serves more than one million customers and ships around 44,000 parcels per working day. Our distribution centers handle more than eight million orders per year from a range of over 500,000 products.
With such a large and complex business, an efficient and well-organized supply chain regardless of physical location is fundamental to our bottom line. It is also vital to our customer satisfaction, as clients now expect end-to-end support.
Not only does an improved supply chain lead to a healthier bottom line and customer satisfaction, it also enables us to improve engagement with and provide a superior service to our suppliers.
EBN: What pain point/challenge put you on the path to looking at improving supply chain connectivity with automation? What were you hoping to achieve?
Ling: We needed to replace our existing scheduler, which was out-of-date and expensive to maintain. The scheduler was unable to handle a series of different activities at once, was difficult to integrate into other systems and very time consuming to use.
There was no standard template for the roll out of automated global activities, so rolling out to new regions was seen as high risk because visibility and control of tasks had to be completed by outsourced support.
Ultimately, we wanted to match the customer experience with client expectations, and continue to compete on the global stage.
EBN: How did you go about choosing a solution? What were the key attributes RS Components wanted? Who was involved in the process? What did you finally choose and why?
Ling: We required a solution that could handle various global time zones, be implemented with minimal disruption, and could run 24/7. We also needed something that could automate a range of supply chain tasks, from inventory processing to delivery procurement. We decided to go with Redwood Software's Enterprise Process Automation platform, SAP Business Process Automation (SAP BPA).
EBN: How did implementation go? Who was involved?
Ling: The implementation was straight forward largely due to the ability to migrate the schedule from the legacy system to SAP BPA as a starting point. We then generated a new standard global template to utilize the enhanced functionality of SAP BPA. The implementation went completely to plan.
The ability to migrate legacy data removed a large amount of risk as the migrated activities could be used without enhancement if dead lines were at risk. The implementation team consisted of the RS Back Office Competency Center team members and an on-site consultant from Redwood.
EBN: What measurable results have you achieved with this implementation?
Ling: Most importantly, we achieved an ROI within a mere 18 months of the deployment. We now have a standard global template for future operations, so that it is much easier and less risky to roll out any changes or add new regions. In addition, SAP BPA automatically completes all our activities in parallel, so there is now no need to wait for tasks to run one after another. We also have seamless connectivity across the entire supply chain, as it is run from one central point of control.
EBN: Are there other supply chain improvements/projects you are planning next?
Ling: We will continue to grow international operations, now that we are able to manage different time zones more efficiently and have integrated our global supply chain better.