RS Components (RS), the trading brand of Electrocomponents plc, a global multi-channel distributor, has embarked on an innovation journey with IBM to transform into a technology-led organisation. As an 80-year-old business with a proud heritage, RS’ mission is to stay relevant and bring the best experiences to its customers. As part of that core focus, the beta version of its new digital community platform, DesignSpark Marketplace, has launched on the IBM Cloud.
Created via an agile Design Thinking process in the IBM Cloud Garage in London, DesignSpark Marketplace enables makers, start-ups and small businesses to promote, test and sell their inventions to an online community of more than 650,000 members. Working with IBM, RS acted with the speed of a start-up and the industrial scale of an enterprise to combine key skills, technologies and agile innovation methods to build engagement both internally and with end users.
RS wanted to build on the success of its original platform, DesignSpark, to build a peer-to-peer marketplace. Working in the London IBM Cloud Garage, one of 12 physical hubs within IBM’s global Garage network, RS brought together critical stakeholders to work alongside IBM design and technology experts to create a compelling, collaborative user experience, and delivered a beta, production-ready platform in just four weeks. The project was anchored by the IBM Cloud Garage Method, a unique and agile approach to building with IBM Cloud and the technologies it delivers.
Powered by IBM Cloud technologies such as the IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service, IBM Cloud Object Storage and data services such as MySQL and Elasticsearch, DesignSpark Marketplace connects makers with content to learn from their peers. It provides free CAD software to create new products and inventions such as Pi-Top, a laptop kit created to support STEM learning, and addresses a key challenge faced by inventors: getting products to market. The platform helps overcome this obstacle by enabling makers to sell products which can be used by other inventors and big thinkers to further build innovation.
“The launch of DesignSpark Marketplace marks a step-change in a promising and innovative journey for both IBM and RS Components,” says Andy Stanford-Clark, IBM UKI CTO. “By combining the experience of two long-standing organisations, we can focus on using breakthrough technologies and design techniques to deliver the most compelling experience for RS’ customers. DesignSpark Marketplace is an exciting landmark, and a platform built in the IBM Cloud Garage to foster collaborative innovation to truly allow makers to kickstart their inventions and ideas.”
IBM is continuing to carve a unique position in the cloud by opening up access to capabilities that encourage innovation and collaboration. Deployed on the IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service, DesignSpark Marketplace utilises a broad suite of IBM Cloud services to easily integrate and run the new online community within RS’ existing digital presence, as well as augment it with third party components through an open and agile architecture. Potential sellers can now list any product created, and users can register for free on the platform to buy and sell new creations, fostering a new way for makers to collaborate creatively. Whether a hobbyist or a business, the Marketplace supports projects related to electronics and 3-D printing – whether ‘add-on boards’ or kits to use with popular Single Board computers like Raspberry Pi or Arduino, or other standalone creative projects.
“We are focusing on solving one of the biggest challenges today for makers, engineers and entrepreneurs – getting new products and creations in front of potential customers.” says Alex von Schirmeister, chief innovation officer, RS Components. “In the long term, we look forward to innovation partnerships with many leading-edge technology partners and IBM in particular, expanding our work and combining our expertise and experience to drive even more compelling user experiences.”
The launch of DesignSpark Marketplace marks the latest milestone for the partnership between IBM and RS to intersect technology and agile development processes to build innovative new projects, encourage entrepreneurship and differentiate competitively.