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RS Components UK Ltd

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Comedy podcast 05/02/2019

RS Components (RS), the trading brand of Electrocomponents plc (LSE: ECM), a global multi-channel distributor, has started production of its second comedy podcast series following the 5-star rating of its popular History Makers series, released last year.

With a brand new title for 2019, to reflect its originator, The DesignSpark Podcast will feature a cocktail of fun facts, exuberant stand-up, outlandish sketches and foot-tapping songs, giving a comedic look, in the style of BBC Radio 4’s Now Show, at some of the hottest topics in technology.

Robot Wars judge Dr Lucy Rogers, and award-winning comedians Bec Hill and Harriet Braine, will return to explore the ludicrous side of modern technology over six 25-minute episodes set to be released in spring 2019. The live-audience format takes influences from both BBC radio and traditional podcasts, with a mix of informal conversation, scripted comedy and spontaneous banter.

While the first series delved into the lives of great inventors from the past, Series 2 –The DesignSpark Podcast – will explore the humorous side of a range of talked-about topics, from AI and robotics and space exploration to augmented human experiences and big data.

To catch up on Series 1 – History Makers – download from www.designspark.com, www.designspark.podbean.com or the iOS Podcast app by searching for DesignSpark.
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Preparing for change: The evolution of MRO procurement 28/08/2018

Rapidly evolving technology is set to dramatically impact the indirect procurement supply chain, according to Peter Malpas, managing director - RS Northern Europe

According to recent research conducted by RS and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), 74% of procurement professionals anticipate ‘some change’ or ‘a great deal of change’ to their indirect procurement strategy over the next five years. Procurement teams know they need to stay ahead of the curve to avoid drifting into obscurity – but what are some of the key considerations for them?

Embracing ‘disruptive’ technology

The pace of change is a daunting prospect for procurement teams, and the fear of adopting ever-evolving new technology is proving a key barrier to adoption for many procurement professionals. Planning in an evolving landscape can be very worrying, so ensuring flexibility and adaptability in the face of change will be vital to any future planning for any organisations.

Not moving with the changes isn’t an option. When competing with other factories making similar products globally, the ability to produce as efficiently as possible from a cost perspective is a key factor, and those businesses that adopt new technologies to improve their operating efficiency will ultimately have a competitive advantage in the market.

Many organisations have adopted eProcurement purchasing systems, which makes searching, ordering and paying for items quicker, simpler and traceable. This lowers procurement costs as a result of the reduction in the amount of time involved in processes, which ultimately reflects on an organisation’s bottom line. Another benefit of this kind of system is order chain transparency to remove risks involved in the supply chain, such as counterfeit or substandard goods from unapproved suppliers.

RS’ own independently verified research highlighted that procurement cost outweighed product cost by 2:1 – so for every £1 spent on product, the cost to the organisation is actually £3. Multiply this in large organsations or multi-site operations and the cost savings to be made from using an intelligent procurement system could be staggering.

Ditching reactive unplanned maintenance 

Procurement teams and engineers across various industries face numerous challenges regarding the maintenance, repair and operation of their organisation’s assets and facilities. The supply chain for indirect parts, materials and tools is complex due to the number of stakeholders involved, a fragmented supply base and the number of products split across multiple categories. In addition, there is constant pressure from senior management to reduce costs. These are issues that need addressing if they are to capitalise on efficiencies that will lead to cost savings.

When it comes to ageing assets and the risk of unplanned maintenance, a major challenge is terms of lead times and availability of parts - a big factor driving downtime. Using suppliers that can create a dynamic inventory profile to support their customers will help in this area. Longer-term, companies should start to think about retrofitting machines with sensors to help them to move along the predictive maintenance journey. In the future, more companies will start to deploy smart asset management technologies, allowing them to monitor ageing assets and to start to predict failure more readily.

When organisations move away from a reactive unplanned maintenance environment and towards planned and preventative maintenance, it’s possible to reduce inventory costs by working with a smaller group of suppliers who can provide products quickly when needed, reducing the need to hold items on site. 

Navigating Brexit

Another key challenge on the horizon for organisations’ procurement and supply teams – and one which was highlighted in RS and CIPS’ research – is Brexit. The procurement team will have a vital role to play both in the run up to the deal and the aftermath, and there should already be plans underway focusing on best and worst-case scenarios for individual businesses, to help deal with the impact of changes once a Brexit deal is in place – whenever that may be. 

The message is clear – ignore change in MRO procurement at your peril. Rest assured, the support will be there to help those organisations that are willing to embrace new technology to use it to their best advantage. 

For more insights into MRO Procurement, visit www.rs-connectedthinking.comhttp://www.rs-connectedthinking.com

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Visitor experience celebrates digital world 20/07/2018

RS Components (RS) has transformed the reception area at its Corby headquarters in the UK into a visitor experience and innovation hub.

The space has undergone a complete overhaul and offers visitors a chance to experience RS’ history from inception in1937, and explore cutting edge technology and innovation focused on customers’ changing needs, and differentiated product and service solutions. The hub celebrates changing culture in a digital world, illustrated using engaging digital and physical demonstrations, which are available to view and interact with. As the content will be continually refreshed, there will be a bespoke and varying experience for visitors on each visit.

Visitors can discover new worlds in the Design, Build, Maintain and Protect Zones, demonstrated through physical displays including an Igus robot, 3D printer and miniature robotic conveyer model. Displays provide inspiring content, including stories from inventors such as ‘flying man’ Richard Browning of Gravity Industries, as well as a VR time travel experience and a demonstration of how RS has been supporting engineers for more than eight decades.

There is also the opportunity to have a virtual walk-through of RS’ Global Logistics Centre based in Nuneaton, where the company ships over 55,000 parcels daily, as well as the new RS Local branch in Bermondsey, which has helped inspire the reception refurbishment. Visitors can also learn about RS’ evolving value added services and solutions portfolios including Digital Procurement Tools, Calibration, DesignSpark and ScanStock, through touch screen presentations.

The ‘Ideation Room’ provides an inspiring and dynamic environment for visitors and teams to hold blue sky thinking sessions within including modular digital and physical tools and enablers.  

RS MD Mike England, says: “Innovation is at the very heart of everything we do, and we wanted this to be clearly communicated to all visitors to our Corby headquarters from the moment they step through the doors. Our commitment to innovation and to continuously improving the products and services we offer to our customers is something we are passionate about. This has been demonstrated by the transformation of two of our RS Local branches and through our work to promote engineering and new technologies on our Titan II truck, which is currently touring the UK, visiting various educational establishments, customers and suppliers.”

RS is building a network of company ‘avatars’ - specialists in different areas of the business who will be able to offer visitors bespoke and varying experiences of the new visitor and innovation hub. Displays and content will be continuously refreshed to reflect evolving technology and customer requirements.

Mike added: “We operate in a fast-paced digital industry, and we want visitors to our UK headquarters to see that we’re at the forefront of new technologies and are leading the way with innovative solutions, to support our customers and inspire them to achieve the impossible and change our world. A huge amount of creative thinking and work has gone into the transformation and we’re delighted with the result – we hope our visitors will appreciate it and learn new things about RS and new technology and innovation during every visit.”

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Tools and accessories: Special promotion 03/07/2018

RS Components (RS) has announced a special promotion on a range of Facom limited-edition tools and accessories as part of the centennial celebrations for the French brand.

Now part of Stanley Black and Decker, the Facom brand began in 1918 and sits at the high end of the market, targeting tradespeople and maintenance professionals in the construction and other industrial sectors. The Facom limited-edition products will be available to the market from RS while stocks last.

The 100-year anniversary limited-edition tools and accessories on offer include: long-nose clamp pliers; a 38-piece socket and bit set; a 12-piece spanner set; a nine-piece hex-key set; a 29-piece toolset; a hacksaw; a stainless-steel knife; a six-drawer tool trolley; and a three-drawer ‘ToughSystem’ storage module.

In addition, as part of the special promotion, RS will be holding a competition on its engineering community site – DesignSpark – where it will be giving away some of these limited-edition Facom products.

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Technology and Open Standard data enabling smart maintenance 18/05/2018

Taking care of maintenance in an industrial or building setting involves many considerations for maintenance operators – from sourcing the right products to creating cost and energy efficiencies. However, the space has been revolutionised thanks to an array of smart maintenance products, reports Allen Boney, local product manager, Electrical and Test & Measurement, RS Components

From retro-fittable smart sensors to detect wear and tear and plan life-cycles of parts, to test and measurement devices to pre-empt maintenance, being smart in this area saves on both costs and downtime. Another development is manufacturers working collaboratively in the open-standard of IO-Link when it comes to creating a universal data structure for usage information. Extra data can be streamed from intelligent sensors to maintenance teams, enabling pre-emptive, timely and smart maintenance decisions to be made based on solid and accurate data. 

Sensor connectivity and communication

Production processes rely heavily on sensors providing basic measurement data for their ongoing, satisfactory operation, especially in terms of process control. However, the arrival of IO-Link – a powerful standard used to communicate with sensors and actuators – means new data about the process can be captured and unlocked, generating further information for better decision making. Being manufacturer agnostic, IO-Link allows sensors to provide operation management and maintenance teams with more information on the performance of the sensor or actuator.

IO-Link allows process variables, identification information, parameters and device status to be sent – helping avoid replacement with the wrong device model. It also allows for sensor parameters to be stored in the controller and automatically transferred when the unit is replaced. It simplifies equipment replacement, reduces the level of training required, reduces maintenance costs through better diagnostics and prevents downtime.

Upgrade with minimal cost

One of the major benefits of IO-Link technology is its use of existing wiring. It transmits the additional information via the 3-wire connection used by the sensor or actuator without affecting its basic operation. This means IO-Link is invisible to the system unless a gateway is used to interface with this data, which allows IO-Link enabled sensors to be implemented into existing machines or designs with minimal re-work – saving on upgrade costs.

Some maintenance operators might choose Ethernet enabled sensors such as thermal imagers and vision sensors, which are mounted in the process and transmit data via open Ethernet standards such as Modbus/TCP. Vision sensors such as the Telemecanique OsiSense XUW easily integrate into machinery and are dedicated to the inspection of manufactured parts. They allow checking of high production rate operations, ensuring high repeat accuracy, and can be used to manage objects' flow.

Connected test and measurement

IO-Link and sensors are effective for predictive maintenance, but it’s worth using a combination approach. Both portable and fixed test and Measurement instruments allow engineers to share and log data via open standards such as Bluetooth and Wireless Ethernet (IEEE 802.11). Permanently installed test and measurement equipment is ideal to help identify issues and for use when a need arises to assess a piece of equipment in a part of a plant that may be unsafe to enter. It is also useful for sending information from one engineer to another, when giving guidance on a particular issue. 

RS works with CorDEX, which offers the MN4100 dual vision thermal imaging camera that captures fully radiometric data every second, and provides continuous temperature monitoring and alarming for critical electrical and mechanical equipment. Manufacturers such as FLIR offer a way to streamline hand-held thermal inspections and simplify data collection and reporting: its InSite Inspection Management Application is a professional workflow tool for electrical contractors and thermographers, allowing the streamlining of thermal inspections and simplified data collection and reporting in one location that's easy to access, manage, and share. This gives the maintenance team high-quality data on which to make decisions, schedule repairs and maximise uptime.

Negating product and parts wastage caused in scheduled preventative maintenance, whilst managing risk of downtime arising from product failure by facilitating predictive maintenance is a balance that the latest products help maintenance professionals achieve. Whilst IO-Link has become established and has a high level of manufacturer support, there needs to be similar support available from machine builders and integration partners to ensure operational benefits are fully realised.

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AI vs human involvement 06/03/2018

Heiko Luckhaupt, industry sector marketing manager of RS Components, looks at AI and considers the benefits it will offer in light of an ever-changing modern workforce

Thanks to the internet and all its connected spin-offs, the world is getting a lot smaller. It is also getting a lot smarter as users, companies and organisations have begun to leverage the astonishing amount of information now available at their fingertips.

A world without access to the World Wide Web is almost unimaginable now, as it has become entrenched in our lives, helping us in some way or another with just about every facet of our daily routine – from shopping and banking to healthy lifestyles and holidays. But for all the benefits it delivers it also has its detractors.

Automation has come under the spotlight in recent months, with just about every business- and tech-related media channel discussing how robots are soon going to replace human workers in a much wider variety of jobs. Bill Gates has even waded in, suggesting that we need to introduce a robot tax in order to offset, among other things, the loss in tax from wages.

There are certainly arguments from a social perspective, relating to job losses and lost incomes, but from a technical perspective the value that robotics and automation deliver is almost incalculable. And this value is not just in terms of the bottom line. It is also to do with quality, flexibility and agility – essential elements of any contemporary production system if it is to keep pace with the demands of the modern consumer. There is also a health and safety angle, where automated systems are replacing repetitive manual labour, or activities in dangerous environments.

The next big breakthrough, which is already gaining both positive and negative press, is artificial intelligence (AI). What AI is achieving now is remarkable and it is still in its relative infancy. The next decade will see an almost exponential growth in capabilities and applications as it is modified and applied to a much wider set of applications and disciplines.

AI will replace and supplement jobs, there is no argument here, but the majority of the jobs it will replace in industry are the ones that are getting harder to fill by actual people, due to the demographics of the modern workforce. Before connectivity became a big thing and big data was just a futuristic buzz word, industrial companies relied upon experience and longevity. Engineers and technicians with many years of work under their belts were (and still are to a certain extent) the driving force behind these industrial operations; and their experience, backed up with an innate 'gut feeling' are what kept operations running.

We’ve all heard stories of engineers who could tell the health of an axle by laying their hand on a bearing hub, or could hear minor nuances in the sound made by a gearbox and therefore predict if it needed re-lubricating. The issue here is that these people are simply not being replaced. As modern workforces have evolved to exploit newer and newer technology, the level of intimacy we have with machines and components is simply not the same. Modern, recently qualified engineers rely on computers, sensors and hand held devices to tell them if something is going wrong and then take action based on this information.

With this in mind – and as replacement to the previously mentioned seasoned engineers with their ‘gut feelings’ and tactile abilities – we are already seeing the deployment of sensors that can constantly check the behaviour of components or power consumption in a production line and then highlight critical values before parts begin to fail, creating costly production interruptions. One example of this is the PowerTag from Schneider Electric, which can measure the current in an installation. If it receives values out of the norm for a pre-defined period it can trigger an event. Applications could be as simple as a compressor in a domestic fridge up to a more complex HVAC system in a factory. In cases such as these there could be any number of reasons for current fluctuations, ranging from someone simply forgetting to close a fridge door or an office window (which can be fixed quickly, saving energy for the user) or it could be indicative of something a little more serious, such as highlighting the fact that the HVAC compressor requires maintenance. Undertaking remedial action at the right time can be a quick and easy job, or it might be a little more involved, but in either case doing it too late could result in a much more costly compressor repair, which may well lead to additional machine downtime.

So, the argument behind the adoption of AI is “if a computer is used to collect the data, why not use a computer to analyse the data and then perform the remedial action”? AI is already being deployed in maintenance, which is actually a great example due to the limited but highly informative data sets being generated. So it makes sense that its roll out will soon cover a larger application base.

What AI is able to do is spot patterns – even obscure ones – that a human operator could simply not see or consider. AI is technologically agnostic, it has no pre-conceived biases and it does not have any emotional attachment to the issues or the outcomes. What it will generate is a completely objective analysis of the system being monitored, without any prejudice and then, if the confidence exists to allow it, perform the most logical remedial action.

How this type of service is delivered, to the shop floor for example, is still up for debate. The likelihood is that it will be a subscription-based processor or AI-engine lease from one of the big IT forms that are already pouring billions into its development. What is clear though is the potential it can deliver. Replacing jobs or roles that are already in decline makes real sense and the benefits will be staggering. How we go about using AI for other, less-fulfilling roles is another question, which will be answered in the next few years. Whatever the case, the potential that AI will offer the modern industrial company is too big to ignore and, just like other great industrial revolutions, the workforce will adapt to leverage its capabilities, allowing the personnel it replaces to undertake roles to which they are much more suited.

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A celebration for the inspired 08/12/2017

As children, we grew up with big ideas and active imaginations that led us to think we could do anything we wanted. We were inspired by the world around us and driven by a belief that everything was possible.

Our customers keep that magic alive. So ‘for the inspired’ is a celebration of the people in our industry – their achievements, moments of ambition and inspiration to make things happen.

What did you want to be when you were young?

Click here and tell us.

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New contactor series delivers reduced energy consumption in industrial machines 10/07/2017

RS Components has introduced a new series of AC/DC coil compatible contactors from Schneider Electric. Schneider has upgraded its TeSys D range with the TeSys D Green range that features lower energy consumption and AC/DC coils, meaning every coil can be energised with either AC or DC current. 

Making it easy for customers to upgrade and gain the improved energy efficiencies, the new range is backward compatible with all current TeSys D accessories and support products and offers consistent low-energy contactors that handle 9 to 80A, and cover control voltages from 24 to 500V AC or DC. 

Designed to take up less space in machines and electrical cabinets, the range is said to offer a number of advantages. For example, low control current leads to lower energy consumption with a reduced coil power of just 0.5W at 24V DC, contributing to the energy efficiency of a machine. In addition, a special contactor product that handles 40 to 65A and can connect directly to PLC control, as the device can be driven by a common 24V DC / 500mA static output, means that a relay interface is no longer required. 

Meeting the SEMI F47 standard, the range offers higher resistance to voltage surges and grid disruptions to provider higher uptime. The contactors also offer reduced contact bounce as the devices retain the same high resistance to shock and vibration as the TeSys D range.

Other advantages include a constant closing and opening time, regardless of voltage fluctuation, delivering reliable repetitive actuation. Also, when maintenance is required one TeSys D Green can replace many standard contactors.

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Gravity: The human propulsion flight suit 21/04/2017

RS Components is excited to support Gravity, the world's first human propulsion company, providing tools, components and expertise to assist with the development of human propulsion technology.

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Scalable, entry-level access control bundles 08/05/2017

RS Components (RS) is launching a new range of access control products from TDSi as well as a number of value adding entry-level bundles.

TDSi is a British manufacturer with more than 30 years’ experience in access control technologies. Its products include controllers, readers, cards and fobs, along with software solutions for security applications in a wide range of sectors. 

Developed with the needs of users and building managers in mind, TDSi’s security products deliver secure, robust and cost-effective access control, as well as powerful integration capabilities with a range of different building management systems. The solutions are also scalable so users can easily add extra functionality and zones to meet the needs of expanding operations.

RS offers these access control bundles, which are ideal for one-to five-door applications in, for example, office or laboratory environments, or remote locations.

The one-door bundle contains a MICROgarde I Controller, an EXprox reader, 10 proximity cards and EXgarde Express software. The two-door bundle expands on this with an additional EXprox reader and a MICROgarde II Controller in place of the MICROgarde I, while the five-door bundle offers five EXprox readers, two MICROgarde II Controllers and one MICROgarde I Controller in addition to the software and 10 proximity cards.

A further bundle comprising one SOLOgarde controller, a SOLOgarde reader and 25 SOLOgarde proximity cards is also available. Based on the highly secure MIFARE platform, SOLOgarde can control a single door and up to 1000 users, providing a cost-effective solution for small to medium-sized installations.

The TDSi bundles have been created to ensure users have everything they need to successfully install door access control solutions that match their precise needs. Further capabilities can be added with the purchase of additional accessories such as biometric keypad readers.

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PROFILE

RS Components and Allied Electronics are the trading brands of Electrocomponents plc, the global distributor for engineers. With operations in 32 countries, we offer more than 500,000 products through the internet, catalogues and at trade counters to over one million customers, shipping around 44,000 parcels a day. Our products, sourced from 2,500 leading suppliers, include electronic components, electrical, automation and control, and test and measurement equipment, and engineering tools and consumables.

Electrocomponents is listed on the London Stock Exchange and in the last financial year ended 31 March 2015 had revenues of £1.27bn.

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