The Major Tasks
Evolving business practices and the emergence of advanced technologies have greatly affected the roles of purchasing managers. While some of their traditional functions have been rendered obsolete, others have simply been made simpler. Yet, in spite of these changes, purchasing managers continue to be charged, in general, with performing the following critical tasks:
- creating purchasing and contract policies as well as purchasing procedures for organizations
- developing specifications for products, equipment, and substitute materials
- controlling the budgets of the purchasing departments
- finding appropriate suppliers of materials, equipment, or services
- examining costs, quality, and availability of goods and services
- negotiating to finalize purchasing deals and contract terms
- reviewing purchase order claims and contracts and making them conform to company policies
- keeping detailed records of goods ordered and received
- preparing purchase requisitions and orders
- interviewing, employing, and training staff for purchasing departments
- acquiring the latest information about markets and delivery systems to prepare better for future deals
- resolving vendor grievances and complaints against suppliers
- setting up and maintaining interpersonal relationships with staff, vendors, suppliers, and management
Educational and training requirements for purchasing managers vary depending on the size and type of the organization in question. Large retail and wholesale stores look for employees with bachelor’s degrees emphasizing business. Manufacturers value formal education and hire employees with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in business, economics, or applied sciences. Many large companies insist on MBAs.
Training is an essential part of improving the productivity of purchasing departments. Most good companies prefer to provide company-specific training to their staffs. Even with the best degrees, newly recruited purchasing managers find training useful for learning the ins and outs of the employers’ businesses.
Continuing education and training plays a significant role in deciding the career advancement of employees. Employers encourage their managers to attend seminars and symposia.
Employees with professional certification tend to be promoted more quickly. Some private, federal, state, and local institutions confer certifications indicating professional competence and experience.
Purchasing management is a leadership activity in which it helps to have a marketing professional’s flair. It requires tremendous initiative and foresight. The following skills and attributes are critical to the successful purchasing manager:
- planning and decision-making skills
- the ability to anticipate consumer preferences and foresee buying patterns
- sharp judgment related to stock keeping
- the ability to make quick decisions
- the courage to take risks when required
- the ability to sense the sales potentials of products
- negotiation skills
- proficiency in word processing, spreadsheet programs, and use of the internet
- the ability to analyze technical data given in proposals
- mathematical and statistical skills
- good understanding of supply chain management
The development of advanced software has to some extent lessened the demand for staff in purchasing departments. Today large volumes of purchases are made electronically through the internet and electronic data interchange (EDI). However, the decline in job offers has more strongly impacted jobs that rank lower on the purchasing department ladder than purchasing manager.
Another factor that has lessened the market for purchasing managers to some extent is the emergence of large retail stores. These huge stores, along with a raft of mergers and acquisitions, have eliminated regional buying to a great extent. Conversely, though, demand for purchasing professionals is actually growing in the services sector.
In short, the market for purchasing managers is certainly facing some challenges, but they are largely transitory in nature. The sector offers excellent career opportunities to those who love merchandise, are passionate about purchasing, possess good judgment, and read markets like books.