RS Components (RS), the trading brand of Electrocomponents, the global distributor for engineers, has celebrated 80 years since opening its first business operations in London, UK.
Founded as Radiospares, in 1937, the company started as a supplier of parts to the burgeoning radio market, and has evolved to become a global distribution enterprise, with operations in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia, offering a diverse portfolio of more than 500 000 industrial and electronic components across 2 500 global brands.
RS is globally known as one of the first distributors to successfully transition into an e-commerce business within the B2B space and continues to win awards for innovation and supplier development.
RS South Africa opened its doors in 1996, the flagship operation in Africa, celebrating 21 years of distributing products and components to engineers around the continent.
Brian Andrew, GM of RS South Africa, comments: “How things have changed. In 2009 we took the decision to print our last paper catalogue. It was a big risk to take in a market where e-commerce was just taking off and where the industry was still quite traditional with engineers requesting our 3 000 page catalogue to physically search for their favourite parts.
“We started off with just 5% of sales coming through the website in 2009 and this has steadily grown to 65% of all sales coming through the website. That 3 000 page catalogue is now available on our website with over 500 000 products for our customers to choose from, and a further 5000 new products being added on a monthly basis.
“The shift has been phenomenal with unbelievable efficiencies gained through the use of technology.”
The company’s founding principle of service excellence, with ease of doing business at its core, has been a major factor in its success and longevity. This continues to underpin the strategy now being implemented by the new leadership team at RS as it prepares to transform the business to serve the changing landscape of the high-tech industry, and leverage opportunities in areas such as mechatronics and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
Innovation is another vital keystone for supporting customers and suppliers through the product life cycle, and RS is continuing to develop its DesignSpark engineering community, offering technical support, free tools and inspiration to engineers in the design phase.
RS is also focussed on inspiring the next generation of engineers. RS South Africa is involved in various university programmes aimed at increasing the interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education and creating an ecosystem where innovation and engineering talent can thrive. Some of the initiatives include the Robot Race Day with the University of Pretoria, kitting out the engineering project labs at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and recently providing the tools and components for the solar car created by North West University for the 2017 Solar Car Challenge in Australia.
Mike England, UK MD and head of Northern Europe region at RS, says: “RS has a unique offering and an unparalleled 80-year heritage, which we are proud to celebrate today. Customers are at the heart of everything we do, and our focus remains on service excellence, which we will achieve by keeping abreast of technology and market dynamics. This approach, along with our passion to innovate and to inspire the next generation of engineers, is vital in ensuring that RS continues to prosper for the next 80 years and more.”