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Working under purchasing managers, purchasing assistants coordinate procurement activities, ensuring the efficient acquisition of goods at fair prices. They advise managers on the products to purchase, maintain communication with vendors, track orders and maintain accurate purchase records. Purchasing assistants, who typically need a high school diploma and some administrative or clerical support experience to get hired, can work for businesses, local authorities, government agencies as well as nonprofit organizations. According to Simply Hired, an occupational resources website, purchasing assistants earned an average annual salary of $42,000 as of February 2014.
To ensure an organization purchases quality products, purchasing assistants provide information on the various brands of products that are available in the market. At a university, for example, the assistant may use his knowledge of stationery products to advise faculty members on the best products to use. When the institution’s departments place purchase requisitions, he reviews them for completeness and accuracy. If a requisition is inaccurate -- perhaps a department orders an unusually high number of copier paper -- it is the assistant’s job to investigate the issue before contacting vendors.
After receiving purchase orders, the purchasing assistant coordinates the purchase and subsequent delivery of the goods. If the organization wants to enter into a contract with a supplier, the assistant requests suppliers to make bids, complete with price lists of ordered products. She may then collaborate with the procurement manager to review the bids and choose a reliable supplier with the best prices. The assistant contacts the selected vendor and schedules a meeting where they can negotiate terms of supply and sign the procurement contract.
Monitoring Contractor Performance
Purchasing assistants monitor the performance of contracted suppliers. For instance, when a supplier delivers stationery to the university, the assistant inspects the quality of copier paper, spring files, writing implements and other items to ensure they meet the institution’s specifications. If some products are not of the required quality, the assistant instructs the supplier to deliver replacements. Purchasing assistants keep managers updated on the performance of various suppliers, often recommending appropriate actions -- such as contract terminations -- against underperforming vendors.
Maintaining Purchase Records
It is the job of purchasing assistants to maintain up-to-date records of procurement documents such as purchase orders, bid proposals and vendor reviews. To do this, they must develop and implement a suitable filing system. If these assistants choose a steel filing cabinet as opposed to an electronic filing system, for instance, they can place similar or regularly used documents in the same drawer, so that if purchasing managers require bid proposals submitted by certain suppliers, the assistants are able to easily retrieve them.
Using the Relevant Skills
To be effective, purchasing assistants must be organized individuals with a keen eye for small details and strong math skills. For instance, they use organizational skills to work efficiently with several pieces of purchase documents, and math skills to make accurate calculations of total costs of orders items. Verbal communication skills are important too, as the assistants are often in frequent communication with suppliers and vendors.
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Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.