By Tisha Braxton
Like most working individuals, a typical day starts with a dreadful alarm that has been snoozed 3 or 4 times. As I rush to get ready now at the last minute the countdown begins to get to the office and finish that task I lost sleep over just the night before.
While anticipating the daily morning meeting a little anxiety begins to settle in with the thought of getting stuck in traffic. For if I’m just 2 minutes late, I’ve already missed the meeting most days. However, the day is just beginning and there’s no time to sulk over my poor time management skills. Work isn’t going to do itself.
Now I’ve turned on my computer and Microsoft Outlook is slowly starting up. The responses to the emails sent the night before, the URGENT supply shortage notifications, the random meeting requests, reminders and tasks are all pouring in or waiting for my prompt reply. Coffee is essential….YES, COFFEE. It is much needed and a priority to face THE INBOX.Then all in a matter of 5-10 minutes, I’ve successfully avoided my long winded colleague in the kitchen, coffee is in hand, and those emails better watch out because now I’m on fire!
But I’m in Purchasing, so I just have to order stuff now right? No big deal. Just place some purchase orders and life is good. Well as easy as that sounds, the ordering part is the simplestpart of the job function. Once a purchase order is placed, it takes on a life of its own. I own it from start to finish. Did the supplier confirm? Was there a delay and now the product won’t be delivered on time? Is there a pricing discrepancy? Does the supplier want to issue a price increase? Did receiving process the PO receipt on time? Does the order need to be cancelled or increased? Did the supplier ship the wrong thing or was it defective? These are all examples of how a purchase order comes with many strings attached. Problem solving skills are a must.
Along with reacting to the daily fires and unforeseen events, there are many opportunities to be proactive to avoid them. Over time I’ve built on my critical thinking assets. Issues with suppliers for instance may lead to developing another source. This is where a lot of commodity, product, or process knowledge is learned. There’s always plenty to learn.
At times I may negotiate stocking programs; work with engineering to redesign a product, or change order policies in the MRP system. Opportunities for improvement lead to various projects where I get to be a Project Manager within my role.Although not limited to, many Purchasing projects are cost savings projects. The Buyer has a direct impact on whether the company makes or loses money. In essence I am responsible for spending and saving money, bringing in and lowering inventory, ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
It’s an art form in itself, but planning and analyzing data regularly makes it possible. After I’ve put out the fires and attended various meetings, I manage to find some time to build and review several spreadsheets I’ve created over time. These usually include different spend and inventory analyses. Stepping stones to the next big project idea.
There are also the many relationships that must be developed with each of my suppliers. This is important because these people will be my partners. Negotiation is inevitable in the Buyer’s role, whether it be to get a lower cost, decreased lead time, some consignment deal, or if you just really need a favor. Having a positive relationship with your supplier comes in handy in these situations. Favors will be needed every now and then; especially in a manufacturing environment where production delays or expedites are just the natures of the business. What does developing these relationships include? It includes meetings and onsite visits from time to time, conference calls, and occasional free lunches. As the liaison and representative for my company I have an important role to fight and advocate for both sides (the supplier and the company that pays me) depending on which the circumstances call for.
The Buyer also must interface with–
We are needed to provide sources and quote out parts or products they may be designing. You’d also be needed to facilitate meetings with various suppliers. And what about when it comes to coordinating and negotiating all of the terms that will come with the purchase of a newly designed part?
So is the average day fruitful? Absolutely! Though it is a lot of work, being in Supply Chain or specifically Purchasing is never a dull moment. There’s always plenty of work to do and people to see. Due to the nature of the job, it allows each individual to hone and develop many invaluable skill sets such as interpersonal, negotiation, analytical, problem solving, relationship building, critical thinking, effective communication,project management, Microsoft programs etc. These are all things that can carry over to almost any other field should the desire for a career change come down the line. In addition, having that interaction with so many different departments on a regular basis can open up many growth opportunities within a company. Did I mention earning potential? Annual salaries for supply chain and procurement professionals can range from a low of $50K to $90K+ depending on title, level, experience, and location. Not bad if you’re up for a challenge!