Purchasing managers (along with buyers and purchasing agents) buy products for organizations to use or resell. They evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and review product quality. Most work full time. Many work more than 40 hours per week.
Purchasing managers typically do the following:
Purchasing managers buy farm products, durable and nondurable goods, and services for organizations and institutions. They try to get the best deal for their organization—the highest quality goods and services at the lowest cost. They do this by studying sales records and inventory levels of current stock, identifying foreign and domestic suppliers, and keeping up to date with changes affecting both the supply of, and demand for, products and materials. They consider price, quality, availability, reliability, and technical support when choosing suppliers and merchandise. To be effective, they must have a working technical knowledge of the goods or services to be bought.
Evaluating suppliers is one of the most critical functions of a purchasing manager. Many organizations now run on a lean manufacturing schedule and use just-in-time inventories, so any delays in the supply chain can shut down production and potentially cost the organization customers. Purchasing managers use many resources to find out all they can about potential suppliers. They attend meetings, trade shows, and conferences to learn about new industry trends and make contacts with suppliers. They often interview prospective suppliers and visit their plants and distribution centers to assess their capabilities. For example, they may discuss the design of products with design engineers, quality concerns with production supervisors, or shipping issues with managers in the receiving department. They must make certain that the supplier can deliver the desired goods or services on time, in the correct quantities, and without sacrificing quality.
Once purchasing managers have gathered information on suppliers, they sign contracts with suppliers who meet the organization's needs, and they place orders. Buyers who purchase items to resell to customers largely determine which products their organization will sell. They need to be able to predict what will appeal to their customers. If they are wrong, they could jeopardize the profits and reputation of their organization.
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Educational requirements usually vary with the size of the organization. A high school diploma is enough at many organizations for entry into the purchasing agent occupation, although large stores and distributors may prefer applicants who have completed a bachelor's degree program and have taken some business or accounting classes. Many manufacturing firms put an even greater emphasis on formal training, preferring applicants who have a bachelor's or master's degree in engineering, business, economics, or one of the applied sciences.
A master's degree may be required for advancement to some top-level purchasing manager jobs. Purchasing managers typically must have at least five years of experience as a buyer or purchasing agent. At the top levels, purchasing manager duties may overlap with other management functions, such as production, planning, logistics, and marketing.
Most purchasing managers work in comfortable offices. Travel is sometimes necessary, and purchasers for global organizations may need to travel outside the country.