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Is Purchasing ‘the glue’?

May 28, 2013

Anne Kohler wrote an interesting article on The MPower Group News. In it, she suggests that Purchasing does not gain the acknowledgement it deserves.

Anne makes the following comment: “In a nutshell, Purchasing is the “Glue” that holds the buying function together.  They play liaison to internal business partners, suppliers and customers and are the face of whatever you call your “Procurement” function.  When Purchasing works, everyone up and down the supply chain is happy.”

In principle, I am sure that Anne may be right in this assertion. But as she states “When it works …” …. and as she also observes, Purchasing seldom receives the respect it deserves. I think these two comments go together. Whether or not is can or should act as ‘the glue’, it is rare that it does so. Why is that?

It seems to me rare that Purchasing has significant liaison with external customers. The resultant lack of awareness of market intelligence is certainly a problem, since it seems tome that many purchasing professionals lose sight of the fact that they exist only because of customers. Without sales, there is no need for Purchasing. But another big problem is the internal image of a group that is associated with rather rigid, rules-driven process and over-focusing on front end savings. Of course it isn’t altogether fair to blame Purchasing for the role that executive management has given it, but I do feel that far too few groups try to break out of the mould. If they want to be seen as ‘the glue’, they need to be far better at understanding and reconciling the divergent viewpoints of the various stakeholders.

For any function to gain the status that Anne describes, they must operate with commercial judgment that balances the multiple forces and interests that compete for attention. They must be capable of making the contention that is present in every organization into a creative force for new ideas and solutions. I’d welcome input from Purchasing groups that are achieving this status. Indeed, they should be among those competing in the 2013 IACCM Innovation Awards.

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