Global electronics distributor
Design & Build
RS Components supports engineers with a huge range of products; the aim is to breed innovation and help every engineer to bring their ideas to life faster.
Established in 1937, the £2bn FTSE global company, which is part of Electrocomponents, ships over 44,000 parcels a day to over one million customers worldwide.
This type of operation inevitably meant that RS Components had treasures of data sitting in different systems; that weren’t being used together.
Joe Nathan, VP, Data & Digital Analytics, also known as Data Joe, was brought in to RS Components to put a roadmap and data strategy together. He began with a data discovery audit of the entire organisation, and found a need for a central data ecosystem. There were already many disparate databases used for analytics and reporting across the business that couldn’t scale, and as time went on more and more were being created. This wasn’t efficient or sustainable.
Identifying what the business needed, Joe put together a business case and secured the necessary investment. “This was essentially part of a 12 part jigsaw puzzle covering all the pillars of data” said Joe, “the business needed to be data driven and have actionable insights from the treasures of data we hold.”
The requirement then was to build the platform, using Cloudera in AWS and Talend. Alongside this a new in-house data team had to be put in place, to ensure on-going success and support for the data ecosystem and business initiatives.
And the name for this central data ecosystem? Quantum – named by one of the team as it was a “quantum leap of faith for the business”.
Joe began with a bit of background: “I met Jason [Foster, CEO & Founder of Cynozure] at Big Data LDN in 2018 when we were both speakers. I’d heard him speak many times before and was impressed by his style and past experiences. Even though we didn’t work together immediately, we kept in touch.”
RS Components had now secured Cloudera as their data stack on the AWS cloud platform, but needed a partner to help get off the ground, design and deliver the platform and build towards the end state solution.
“Having done a number of data platform builds in the past I know when it’s better to lean on a third party than to do a project solely internally.” Joe commented, before going on to explain” We chose Cynozure because Jason and James [Lupton, CTO at Cynozure] had proven experience in design and delivery of successful data platforms; they knew the Cloudera and AWS stack well and could put our delivery operating model in place.”
Joe gave a great analogy of what was involved: “I think of this as the design and build of a house, then getting the rooms furnished and giving it lighting and plumbing.”
Once roles and responsibilities had been clarified, Joe said “The cross functional teams worked really well together, RS and Cynozure really became one team with everyone working in collaboration professionally, but also in a friendly manner. Everyone sat together; it was as though Cynozure had become in-house employees”
But arguably more importantly, “We got it all done. The project was delivered on time and on budget. In just nine months, with a skeleton team, everything required was delivered. And we know that the business is happy with the results.”
This was the first time that RS Components had ventured into using open source and cloud solutions. The cloud capability was relatively immature as it was also just being put in place with team members getting ramped up, which resulted in things taking longer than they had done in the experience of more senior team members that had done similar work before. “It was a bit of a struggle not being fully in control of everything and to have dependency on other teams” commented Joe, “and there were a few issues with Active Directory. The Cloudera team further reduced a process time down from 4.5 minutes to just a few seconds.”
“The investment made was easily paid back within a year – which is a phenomenal result. I have so many people within the business coming to me and saying how well things went. We are seeing so many new efficiencies, for example on time saved – one business process that used to take a week now takes just hours” enthused Joe.
“New capability has been unlocked: over a billion records can now be queried in seconds. This means that it is now possible to try things out, and even if it fails we can learn fast and move on. We have a nice, secure, scalable environment for labs – something that the business wanted to have, and now we do.
“We can deliver more use cases fast, and enable incremental new revenue streams.”
The reality is that there is not just a single system in play, RS Components has an integrated platform. More tools will be added to Quantum, with DOMO next in line.
Joe stated “You’re never done with using data to bring about efficiencies and we are constantly adding value to the business. At the moment we’re hunting down the low hanging fruit, or the quick wins. Then there is also a focus on high value business benefit use cases that support company strategy.”
Cynozure’s Jason Foster concluded: “It’s absolutely brilliant to see some key data use cases in action at RS Components, and it was a pleasure to work with such a great team. Time savings, business efficiencies and revenue streams are just a few of the ways that effective use of data can create success for truly data-guided organisations and it’s fantastic to see this happening for Joe and the team.”