Procurement (or purchasing) is, in a nutshell, buying goods and services for companies and public bodies. A purchasing or procurement manager, sometimes referred to as a buyer, is involved in purchasing these goods and services. What they purchase depends on the organisation they work for and the role they are in. They may be involved in the 'direct' side of procurement, which involves buying everything that goes towards making a product. Much of the cost associated with running a business, however, involves the 'indirect' side of procurement. This includes buying IT, human resources and consultancy services, marketing, logistics, fleet, travel, and facilities management.
Whatever an organisation spends its money on, procurement is responsible for ensuring that it's getting best value for money. Purchasing managers need to consider, for example, the price, availability and quality of products and services, and the stability of the supplier. Procurement can have an enormous impact on a company's profitability and its ability to compete.
Procurement involves a lot more than just buying - there are operational aspects such as getting the right goods or services to the right place at the right time, and strategic planning and forecasting to get things right for the future. In some organisations it has a very strategic focus and works across different business functions to help boost performance, reduce overall cost and deliver improved efficiencies.
The role varies widely, but tasks may include:
Building good working relationships with suppliers is an essential part of the process. Purchasing managers also need to work closely with other departments within their organisation, to win their support for procurement strategies.
In a small organisation, the purchasing manager may be involved in all of the company's buying requirements, but in larger organisations it is not unusual for purchasing professionals to be involved in one specific category, for example IT or marketing.
The normal working week is usually 9.00am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Some jobs may require work outside these hours, particularly in manufacturing. Many organisations have flexible working hours.
Purchasing managers work in an office, often as part of a team, and may also travel to visit suppliers. Some jobs involve a great deal of travel, including travel abroad, depending on where the suppliers are located. Some positions may require a full driving licence. Smart dress is generally required.
A trainee's starting salary is likely to be around £18,000 to £25,000 a year. With experience, this may rise to around £35,000 to £45,000.
Purchasing is such an important part of almost every business sector that opportunities exist in a wide range of organisations, including manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, service industries, and public bodies such as local government and the Civil Service.
There is currently a shortage of qualified professionals, and there is a stable demand for new entrants, though competition for positions is strong. The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS), the lead body representing the field of purchasing and supply chain management, currently has around 50,000 members, many of whom are fully qualified and the remainder studying towards MCIPS (full membership).
Jobs are advertised on specialist recruitment website's such as http://jobs.supplymanagement.com and www.supplychainonline.co.uk, in specialist press, and in local and national papers. Some industries also advertise positions in their own industry magazines.
There are still opportunities for non-graduates to become purchasing managers, and staff may be promoted from within the firm, particularly in smaller companies. However, many new entrants are graduates. Though all subjects may be considered, a Foundation degree or degree in business studies or logistics and supply chain management may be preferred. Some companies require a specialised knowledge of their industry sector. Organisations value strategic thinking graduates with good communication and interpersonal skills.
Degree courses typically last either three or four years full time. The four-year courses may include a work placement, which can give a valuable insight into the skills needed for a commercial position. Postgraduate courses in purchasing, supply management and logistics are also available.
For degree courses, applicants usually need at least two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), including maths and English, or equivalent qualifications. Candidates should check entry requirements with individual universities as they vary.
Some university degree courses are accredited by CIPS, and graduates of accredited courses can apply for full membership once they have three years' experience in a post of responsibility within purchasing and supply. CIPS maintains a list of CIPS accredited undergraduate programme's on its website at www.cips.org.
Many companies run their own on-the-job training schemes. A new graduate is likely to start as a trainee, and follow a training programme to learn the necessary knowledge and skills to do the job. Buying responsibilities are increased as the trainee progresses.
Members of CIPS can study part time for professional purchasing and supply management qualifications that allow candidates to progress through different levels. The following qualifications, within the National Qualifications Framework, are available:
Level 2 Introductory Certificate in Purchasing and Supply.
Level 3 Certificate in Purchasing and Supply.
Level 4 Foundation Diploma in Purchasing and Supply.
Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Purchasing and Supply.
Level 6 Graduate Diploma, a degree-level qualification.
Level 7 Executive Diploma in Purchasing and Supply Management.
The Level 6 Graduate Diploma is a degree level professional qualification. This, coupled with three years' work experience in a post of responsibility within purchasing and supply, allows for full membership of CIPS, and the letters MCIPS. Many employers favour membership of this professional body.
Distance learning options and flexible training programme's are available for many of the qualifications.
CIPS has full details of these qualifications on its website.
It may also be possible to study for an NVQ Level 4 in supply chain management whilst working. This qualification is accredited by CIPS to achieve full membership.
Purchasing managers are encouraged to undertake continuing professional development to increase their knowledge, understanding and skills. CIPS runs regular conferences and events.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A purchasing or procurement manager should:
There are good opportunities for promotion. With experience it is usual to take on more responsibilities such as working with more strategic categories, goods or services. Many purchasing managers specialise in a particular area.
With further experience and responsibilities, it is possible to gain promotion to senior levels such as director, or move into related areas such as commercial or general management.
Opportunities to become a self-employed consultant or freelance contract worker have been increasing, particularly for those with experience and a proven track record.
The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS),
Easton House, Easton on the Hill,
Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 3NZ
Tel: 01780 756777
Skills for Logistics,
14 Warren Yard, Warren Farm Office Village,
Milton Keynes MK12 5NW
Tel: 0844 800 4184
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.