RS Components banks on innovation, value-added services to stand out in SEA

  • Moving from components marketplace to solving business problems
  • Various digitalisation solutions ultimately in preparation for Industry 4.0

RS Components banks on innovation, value-added services to stand out in SEA

We don’t usually think of B2B organisations as digital innovators. Innovations within retail e-commerce sites typically get the lion’s share of headlines – anything consumer-facing usually does, after all.

But we certainly can’t say that innovations within the B2B industry don’t exist or are progressing at a slower pace. RS Components would be one to tell you about it. The global company, best known for supplying electronic components and engineering tools, hasn’t stopped innovating.

In 1998, it launched a full transactional B2B website to facilitate easier ordering of electronic and maintenance products, way before the concept became commonplace. The online channel saw strong uptake from customers, with sales growing by over 50% year on year from 2001 to 2002, despite the nascence of e-commerce then.

But how has the organisation evolved itself over the past two decades? If you asked Eileen Yap, country general manager, Singapore & Malaysia of RS Components, she would tell you that rather than embracing and using technology just for the sake of it, the company believes primarily in creating customer value and being relevant to their needs.

[Ed: An earlier version gave an incorrect designation for Eileen Yap.]

That is, RS Components isn’t just about being a components marketplace or distributor, but also being able to solve certain business problems.RS Components banks on innovation, value-added services to stand out in SEA


Standing out at SEA

It’s how the company would have to stand out in the SEA region. According to Yap, RS Components have been steadily capturing a larger share in the region’s market. And while they see huge potential in Malaysia, uptake hasn’t quite reached expectations.

“To expand our digital presence in this market by next year, we’re working with some priorities on hand,” she tells Digital News Asia. Essentially, RS Components noticed that their customers in Malaysia are not aware of their value proposition, which includes their e-procurement platform, Purchasing Manager, which would be able to assist businesses and help save cost.

Regionally as well, Yap admits that the impression of the company is that they’re merely distributors of electronics, not knowing that they also supply industrial and engineering components through the over 2,500 brands that they work with. RS Components supplies more than 500,000 electronics and industrial products.

Yap says it is vital that they stand out in the region, where the likes of Alibaba have a strong presence. How RS Components stand out is through the various value-added services it offers.

This includes DesignSpark, an online design community and resource centre that has over 650,000 members. IESA, on the other hand, provides outsourced procurement, inventory and stores management services, in addition to transactional processing services.

Then there’s PunchOut, which provides a single platform for users to source from RS Component’s catalogue, on top of supporting vendor consolidation and improving contract compliance.

RS Components also has their own brand of products covering a wide range of categories, quality-tested and are designed with value for money in mind – something B2B e-commerce platforms don’t quite have. 


Helping digitalisation

Now, RS Components has introduced PurchasingManager, their e-procurement service. This, as Yap explains, is an easy-to-implement tool that enables businesses to free up procurement specialists so that they can focus on more strategic tasks.

“This is a web-based order management tool that can streamline buying processes, thus saving time and money,” Yap elaborates. “It’s a powerful and customisable tool ideally for businesses that do not have their own in-house procurement system.”

PurchasingManager is provided to existing and new customers for free with the hope the solution will help companies that have yet to embark on their own journey of digitalisation.

Yap, however, wants to first understand the needs and expectations of their customers before proposing them with a suitable e-commerce solution from its umbrella. “We want to first understand their needs before giving them something that is suited to their business needs,” she explains.

Ultimately, PurchasingManager fits into an ecosystem of solutions under RS Components. For instance, it works with PunchOut and RS Invoice to more fully automate the entire B2B process.


Stepping into I4.0

All this is in preparation for the world embarking into Industry 4.0, something RS Components is building the foundations for, says Yap. “Our approach is to support our customers [in Industry 4.0] – to bring them industrial products and the latest tech.”

“Players within I4.0 require components, materials and the latest technologies. RS Components has always been one of the leading distributors to introduce new products to the market,” Yap adds.

Helping with digitalisation and automation is another step. “Technology has now allowed procurement to change the way customers manage their day-to-day processing and expectations. I would say RS Components have unlocked this over 10 years ago, and it’s an ongoing process for us to understand the needs and trends and advance our own e-commerce solutions to capture today’s requirements.

RS Components is also innovating internally, having automated many parts of their processes. Utilising solutions such as PunchOut has allowed them to eliminate most of their errors, for instance.

Beyond this, however, Yap sees an importance in tech that allows businesses to predict and plan better.

“Regardless of whether we’re talking about repairs or inventory replenishment, it’s often hard to know the exact time when something will break down. It will be good to have the tech to trace this to cut down on last-minute recovery plans, which costs companies more,” she says. 

While there’s nothing in the pipeline for this at the moment, she iterates that RS Components are constantly looking for improvements to support market needs.

All in all, RS Component is aiming to build on these strategies and priorities that will improve their performance in SEA. “These pillars are to ensure RS Components continue to make good things happen,” Yap concludes. “To achieve our vision in becoming the first choice to our customers.”


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