Purchasing officers buy products or materials that their employers can use or resell to customers. They play a vital role in an organization because they are responsible for maintaining a steady flow of supplies to meet the organization's needs. Purchasing officers serve in all kinds of businesses and other organizations.
Purchasing officers' goals include ensuring their organizations always have enough of the products they need to do business. For instance, the purchasing officer for a retail outlet will need to ensure the outlet has enough of a popular item to meet demand among customers. Other purchasing officers may simply be responsible for the office supplies for their business, so they need to keep their organization's workers with enough pens, printer cartridges and computers to keep things running smoothly. Officers work with others in their organization, such as managers or forecasters, to determine the proper supply quantity goals.
Purchasing officers engage in a range of research methods to study suppliers and seek out the level of quality their organization wants in its products. Researching the quality of supplies often involves purchasing officers traveling to suppliers' locations to evaluate them in person. Sometimes, purchasing officers go to conferences and trade shows to seek out new candidates and keep up with old ones. Officers' quality goals vary depending on their industry. Some work to anticipate what will appeal to customers, while others are more focused on their organization's preferences, such as quality ingredients for a food manufacturer.
Purchasing officers must operate within the budgets provided to them. If they can keep costs under control on supplies, they can help their organizations make a profit. They examine a range of factors, including going rates in the marketplace and the quality of the products, and then solicit estimates from suppliers. Then they bargain with suppliers. They negotiate prices and seek and make concessions in contracts to ultimately find the best possible deal for their employers.
Managing Supplier Relationships
Purchasing officers serve as the point of contact between their organizations and suppliers after deals have been struck, coordinating the ongoing relationship and taking a leadership role when problems emerge. For instance, purchasing officers step forward when the quality of a product provided by a supplier falls below expectations or when issues such as late deliveries fail to meet the terms of a contract. They also track transactions and oversee the management of deliveries.
Tom Gresham is a freelance writer and public relations specialist who has been writing professionally since 1999. His articles have appeared in "The Washington Post," "Virginia Magazine," "Vermont Magazine," "Adirondack Life" and the "Southern Arts Journal," among other publications. He graduated from the University of Virginia.