Purchasing Manager Jobs, Procurement Manager Jobs and Careers
Purchasing managers play an extremely important role in achieving business goals. Coming under a wide range of job titles, the purchaser buys whichever goods and services the organisation needs. Unsurprisingly, they need to find the best for the best price possible, while establishing and maintaining positive, lasting relationships with suppliers.
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With many companies spending over half their revenue via the manager, it's unsurprising that salaries for this important role exceed those of marketing, sales and IT managers. What's more, the established purchasing manager can move between sectors, transferring their skills easily to develop a lasting career.
The Purchasing Role
The purchasing role varies according to the organisation, whether private, public or charitable sector, and the exact balance of duties within the position. It can come under a variety of job titles:
- Purchasing director, manager or officer.
- Procurement manager or officer.
- Supply chain manager.
- Contract manager.
- Buyer or category buyer.
The role usually involves a major element of price negotiation and contract management. Duties usually include:
- Identifying the employer's requirements for goods, services and equipment.
- Researching and identifying new products and suppliers, while monitoring market trends.
- Obtain best value for the employer when buying equipment, goods or services.
- Preparing tenders, securing quotations and comparing costs, quality and likely level of service.
- Negotiating costs and preparing contacts with selected suppliers, either domestically or internationally.
- Monitoring stock levels and forecasting needs in advance, while ensuring timely delivery.
- Managing budgets and accounts, including invoicing and payment processing.
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Purchasing in Different Sectors
Nearly half of all purchasing managers work in the private sector. Buyers often purchase wholesale items for resale, while managers frequently buy materials or items for use within the company, usually as materials used in manufacturing. They attend meetings, trade shows, conferences, plants and distribution centres as part of their research.
Private sector purchasing roles have changed significantly with the evolution of business practices. Buyers and forecasters have become highly specialist roles and are frequently involved with the research and development stages of new products.
At a later stage in the product life cycle, team buying involves design engineers, production managers, quality assurance engineers and other professionals to ensure optimal standards in the manufacturing stages. Meanwhile, integrated supply contracts are established which connect all members of the supply chain, including the transporters and retailers.
Buyers for resale purchase merchandise from wholesalers or manufacturers, so that it can be resold to retailers and other organisations, or to consumers. Buyers must be aware of the sales marketplace and competitor sales activity, as well as economic conditions in general.
IT is now a major area for purchasing in the private sector, either in IT businesses themselves or within the IT departments of larger companies. This is a major concern within financial institutions.
Charities, trusts and associations frequently have extremely limited resources and have to prioritise keeping purchasing costs to a minimum by sourcing optimal prices and advantageous deals. This requires detailed research and adds to the time required to identify and source products and services, plus suppliers.
In funded organisations, accountability is an essential requirement. Tendering and selection of suppliers must be a transparent process, due to strict legislation surrounding the expenditure of donated funds. This inevitably adds to the time devoted to procedures. Additionally, not-for-profits are frequently working within the parameters of mission statements that require adherence to ethical and sustainable practices.
Budgets have grown ever tighter across national, regional and local government and associated bodies, meaning there are even more requirements to achieve value for money in purchasing. The areas that purchasing managers are sourcing supplies for include education, construction, IT and every department that comes under the public sector umbrella.
As with the not-for profit sector, there is an ever increasing range of legislation that determines how expenditure is made. Purchasing decisions are limited not only by domestic legislation at national level, but by regulatory frameworks formulated in the European parliament. Accountability requirements are strict, given that all funds being used are sourced from the tax payer and will therefore be closely scrutinised.
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Is this Career For You?
Purchasing requires a wide range of skills, knowledge and experience. Some skills are specialist and pertinent to particular industries, while others are transferable, stemming from individual qualities and aptitudes as much as learned abilities. Purchasing managers need the following skills:
- Financial management, contract management, cost reduction and basic negotiation skills to ensure the employing organisation benefits from the best unit cost and that this is secured in a lasting contract.
- The ability to think analytically and critically is enormously beneficial within this role. All decisions have to be researched, from the direction of the employer's initiative to the marketplace activity, with competitor purchases and sales impacting on buying decisions. The better able the manager is able to process this raw information, the more successful the purchasing decision is likely to be.
- Relationship management abilities, in order to ensure ongoing working relationships that are beneficial to both parties. The goal is to work on a level playing field with the suppliers, to encourage optimal service and a relationship that lasts over time. This is in contrast to the buyer as power-holder approach.
- Sound communication skills are important, particularly when dealing with 'internal customers' in other departments of the employing organisation. The purchaser has to ensure that everyone's needs are met and that everyone is ready to buy-in to the purchasing decision.
- Strategic thinking is critical, as the purchasing manager is playing a key role that can determine success or failure of the entire organisation. Successful outcome can lead to new business ventures or innovative approaches that can radically change a business.
- Logistical awareness is also important. Increasingly, purchasing decisions involve several different parties in the supply chain and the involvement of each needs to be understood and evaluated, from operations and distribution to transport and warehousing. Costs at every stage affect the overall costs and therefore profit margin associated with the products.
- Technical abilities are vital, even for managers who are not working directly in the IT sector. An important part of the role is analysing technical data in supplier proposals, while the continued development of IT has a dramatic impact on all stages of the supply chain.
- Management skills are fundamental to the role, particularly at the higher levels, where planning, production, logistics and marketing are all pertinent to the role.
The educational requirements for purchasing manager positions vary as much as the range of positions available. Generally speaking, the larger the business or organisation, the higher the level of training required. Frequently, the largest companies prefer candidates who have business degrees of some description, most commonly a BA in business, economics, engineering or an applied science (reflecting the fact that many posts are in manufacturing or construction), or an MBA.
For graduates, a training period within the organisation usually lasts one or two years. This is opportunity to learn about the particular company and its activities, products and services. Frequently this involves shadowing an experienced manager to learn about the suppliers, the markets, prices and commodities, as well as inventory systems and other aspects of production.
For buyers involved in goods for resale, training may involve different areas of the wholesale or retail operation, from monitoring stock and inventory, to checking invoices.
Once in position, the purchasing manager who wishes to maintain pace with the changing marketplaces undertakes regular continuing education. This takes the form of seminars and professional certifications, provided by industry associations and educational establishments.
Purchasing Manager Jobs Sites
Jobs can be viewed on these sites:
- The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) is the leading international body for purchasing and supply management professionals - www.cips.org