The history of RS Components is a long and storied one, having been founded in London in 1937 by J.H. Waring and P.M. Sebestyen under the name Radiospares. In those early days, the company was run out of a car boot and had just a single A4 page catalogue, supplying radio repair shops with spare parts and replacement electronic components, and later, when television sets became popular, TV parts were added to the product list.
In 1954, the founders expanded the company’s focus from shops and home users to the industrial sector and began selling electronic components to manufacturers, and rebranded as RS Components (RS) in 1971. By then, the company had gone public, listing on the London Stock Exchange as ‘Electrocomponents’ in 1967. In its annual report of that year, the company emphasised the importance of customers and employees, with the motto ‘24 hour service with a smile!’ To this day, RS continues to live by this same ethos.
RS was also one of the first companies to introduce white labelling of products, although back in those days the owners used to remove the manufacturer’s branding and put the RS logo on the product. Now it partners with various manufacturers and OEMs to produce its own RS Pro branded products.
Now a global powerhouse
Fast forward to today, and RS has over 7000 employees across the world, with a staff complement that has evolved in line with the new acquisitions that the business has made in recent years. The South African operation has approximately 90 employees, which has remained consistent over the last 2-3 years, mainly due to technology efficiencies implemented within the business.
The company employs an omni-channel approach with regards to its customers and suppliers. Widely regarded as a ‘traditional’ distributor, it was in fact a pioneer in e-commerce and one of the first industrial distributors to take its business online. Globally, 63% of revenue comes through online sales, while in South Africa that number is closer to 75%.
RS Components has operations in 32 countries and trades through multiple distributors in other markets, delivering over 50 000 parcels a day to customers. In South Africa, its headquarters are in Kyalami Business Park at a premises it has occupied for 25 years. Storage innovation at its distribution centre has allowed the local operation to grow and expand its offering over the years without the need to relocate. In 2020, it undertook a significant refurbishment project to modernise its office space.
Over the years, RS has acquired a number of complementary businesses, expanding its capabilities and adding to its appeal and reach to customers globally. These include the founding of Okdo which is a global tech company focused on single board computing and the Internet of Things, and the acquisition of Monition, an energy and condition monitoring business which has been absorbed into the RS business. Further acquisitions include: IESA, a market leader in procurement and management of indirect materials; Synovos, a global, independent MRO supply chain management services provider; Needlers, which is the UK’s leading supplier of PPE, safety and hygiene products to the food manufacturing industry; and Liscombe, a leading specialist supplier of high-risk hand protection and PPE products to industrial blue-chip customers in the UK and the Netherlands.
RS currently offers over 500 000 products across 2500 global brands in automation and control, electronics, test and measurement, personal protection equipment, tools and consumables. Over the last 80 years it’s also built up its own brand called RS Pro, a quality industrial brand that is competitively priced.
More than just selling products
RS supports customers across the product life cycle, whether via innovation and technical support at the design phase – improving time to market and productivity in the build phase – or reducing purchasing costs and optimising inventory in the maintenance phase. One of its main aims is to help reduce indirect procurement costs or MROP (maintenance, repairs and operations procurement costs) which are the non-core products that are purchased to keep businesses and/or production facilities operating.
Research shows that through its value-adding solutions, RS is able to generate up to 35% in cost savings in a business’ total MROP costs. These are some of the areas where RS’s value-added solutions make them stand out:
DesignSpark – an online community for engineers, makers and students with access to free CAD, electrical and mechanical design software. This platform has over 1 million members as well as step-by-step tutorials and technical resources to help build and troubleshoot devices and various technology platforms.
Procurement – RS offers solutions for customers to consolidate their spending and reduce procure-to-pay costs, providing continued cost efficiencies across its procurement solutions. Purchasing Manager is a free online eProcurement system. This customisable tool is ideal if you don’t have an in-house eProcurement system. There is no cost or investment involved and you don’t need to upgrade your IT systems. RS also offers complete systems integration with customers’ in-house eProcurement systems using punch-out or round tripping.
Inventory – these solutions are currently being tested in certain markets and enables customers to manage their inventory more effectively, reducing working capital and improving productivity. This includes recently rolled out offerings such as RS VendStock and RS ScanStock, as well as IESA’s fully outsourced inventory management.
Maintenance – RS provides maintenance solutions to help customers manage their assets and improve productivity and sustainability, specifically around energy and condition monitoring.
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