Purchasing agents, buyers and managers are responsible for evaluating products, negotiating contracts and buying the supplies the company needs. A purchasing manager oversees large purchasing departments and usually handles the more complicated transactions while agents and buyers may do everything from providing technical support and evaluating quality and prices to overseeing delivery schedules.
One of the most important duties of a purchasing agent, buyer or manager is assessing the quality, reliability and pricing of suppliers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Businesses rely on the purchasing department to evaluate the suppliers so they have the necessary equipment and supplies on hand when they need them. Budgets depend on accurate ordering, while operations depend heavily on accurate and timely deliveries.
Interaction with Suppliers
The purchasing department staff meets with vendors in their own offices, at the production facilities and at trade shows. To thoroughly vet a supplier, purchasers must accrue sufficient information to make accurate buying decisions. Purchasers maintain relationships with vendors to ensure the supplier stays within the terms of the contract. Much of a company’s resources often are tied up in inventory, so it’s up to the purchasing department to interact effectively with suppliers to ensure accuracy at all times.
The support, or entry-level positions in a purchasing department are vital to the operations as well. It’s up to the purchasing clerk, for example, to track shipments and keep the purchasing manager apprised of delays. Purchasing clerks review invoices and often check them against deliverables to ensure accuracy before sending invoices on to the accounting department. They often maintain the request for proposals and keep records of bids as they arrive.
Defining the Parameters
An important team member in the purchasing process is the procurement officer who develops the parameters that purchasing agents, buyers and managers follow. Through market research, vendor references and contract development, procurement sets up the systems under which the purchasers operate. Procurement is a process within the purchasing department upon which all the activities of purchasers rest. Procurement creates the processes while purchasers implement those requirements.