Report highlights challenges and opportunities for MRO procurement professionals

Published:  30 April, 2024

A recent report by RS, a global provider of industrial product and service solutions, in collaboration with The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS), sheds light on the current landscape for professionals involved in maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) procurement.

Titled ‘Maintaining Focus,’ the 2024 Indirect Procurement Report marks the seventh annual survey of its kind, drawing insights from a diverse pool of global participants representing various sectors such as manufacturing, public sector, energy, logistics & retail, transport, defence, and technology. The respondents, ranging from operational to senior and directorial roles, provided valuable perspectives on prevalent challenges and emerging trends in the field.

This year’s survey notably saw a substantial increase in participation from the UK and Ireland, with 323 respondents, including a significant number of younger individuals and first-time participants. Moreover, a higher-than-usual percentage of smaller and medium-sized enterprises contributed to the survey, enriching its breadth and depth.

Key themes that emerged from the survey underscored the enduring challenges faced by MRO procurement professionals, including talent attraction, adverse macroeconomic conditions, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns, and technological advancements. Among the top challenges cited were the imperative to ensure sustainable and ethical procurement practices, enhance asset performance, and navigate reduced operational budgets. Pressures related to inventory cost reduction and the escalation of indirect material expenses, such as MRO supplies, also featured prominently.

Emma Botfield, managing director for the UK & Ireland at RS, expressed optimism regarding the heightened engagement of procurement professionals in addressing critical business issues, particularly amidst financial pressures. Botfield emphasised the enduring commitment to the ESG agenda among firms, noting the pivotal role of procurement teams in translating intentions into actionable strategies.

The survey revealed a noteworthy willingness among respondents to invest in more sustainable products, with 82% indicating a readiness to pay a premium. Helen Alder, head of knowledge and learning development at CIPS, interpreted this as a positive shift towards long-term thinking, albeit amidst persistent pressure to deliver cost savings and navigate short-term upheavals.

Despite the commendable strides towards sustainability, procurement professionals face multifaceted challenges, including the management of aging assets and risks associated with counterfeit products. Botfield stressed the importance of fostering robust relationships across the organisation, particularly with engineering teams, to identify and prioritise investment needs effectively.

Effective supplier management emerged as a linchpin for procurement success, necessitating a re-evaluation of supplier portfolios and enhanced communication strategies. Botfield highlighted the complexity of these issues and underscored the value of trusted partnerships in navigating them effectively. The report paints a nuanced picture of the MRO procurement landscape, highlighting both challenges and opportunities for professionals in the field.

The full 2024 Indirect Procurement report can be found at:

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