A competent team of buyers is very important for the development of an enterprise; however, without changes to the structure of an organisation no actual savings can be achieved.The revolution in economic processes during the last 40 years has resulted in continuous changes of expectations about the role and qualifications of the buyer in an enterprise. Nonetheless, most importantly, companies need to start to recognise the key role of the supply organisation in the development of their competition strategy. Only then will it be constructive to build competent buyer teams.
What should be qualifications and competences of a Buyer?
The most important aspect of building successful buyer teams is the product rage specialisation of their members. Each range of product requires individual and dedicated management strategy of the supply process that depends on the companies’ own volume of needs, the size and accessibility of the supply market or, finally, customary negotiations with suppliers. Therefore, it is critical that people dealing with purchasing know the specific applications of the purchased range of products, have knowledge about the market and suppliers as well as the technological development trends, etc. It is desirable that the education profile of the buyer be in line with the group of product ranges he/she handles.
Undoubtedly, one of the important buyer’s skills is the ability to encourage professional authorities within an enterprise to achieve together, under the authority informal guidance, the common goal i.e. to optimise the sources of supply. A good buyer also needs to skilfully handle external relations, the market and suppliers. The buyer should have the ability to professionally represent the interests of the company in commercial relations and have subject-matter knowledge of the product range he/she is responsible for. Given that today’s economic relations are global, the buyer’s expertise in supply markets needs to go beyond the local market. Certainly, a buyer, who is responsible for ensuring sources of supplies, needs to have high communicative skills, be open to relationships with people both within an organisation and outside of it. He/she needs to show analytical and negotiation skills, be diligent on every step of the sourcing process, keep records in a precise manner so that they can create a knowledge base for the entire company about purchasing needs, the market, ranges of purchased products as well as trends of supply market changes. Most importantly, the buyer has to be appropriately motivated to conduct activities and be aware of his/her strategic mission to service in a company.
For the last 25 years, the understanding of buyers’ role as well as the attitude towards the supply processes has significantly changed. It was generally due to economic transitions in Poland that replaced the command-and-quota economy and an immense deficit of goods to lay foundations for market economy. The market and fee competition became the drive of transformation. At the beginning, investments focused on innovative means of production, but soon companies realised that it was one of the most expensive methods of building their competitive advantage. Free market, free movement of goods promptly verified the simple methods of competitive edge, and companies began to appreciate the reasons for improving the production efficiency – the prices of supply. Additionally, global groups of companies entering the Polish market further supported the new attitude towards supply and suppliers. Largely, it was those companies that pioneered the optimisation of production costs in the Polish market. They consistently implemented the idea of sourcing as an advanced, strategic method of cooperation between the buyer and the market for the selection of optimum supply sources
In the meantime, in companies that conduct their activity in the conditions of sector monopoly and low competition, buyers remain unprepared to embrace new methods of cooperation with the supply market. They are focused on operational activities and basically rely on managing the flow of commercial documents in an enterprise. Such teams are often built of random people such as redundant employees from other departments who lack specialised knowledge and experience in purchasing. This is due to the fact that the management of those enterprises fails to recognise the actual business risks and to ensure cost management. Fortunately, as more and more companies start to acknowledge the market and its rights, the number of enterprises with random purchasing policies is decreasing. On the other side, there are companies that are highly motivated to fight for the market and perceive cost management as a part of the company’s strategy on every level. Such enterprises have already built or are building professional buyers’ teams focused on supplying the company at optimum prices. It is uplifting that every year we see an increased awareness about the role of supply and the need for changes – to move from operational supply activities to a regular development of the strategy for the selection of supply sources.
How can we build buyers’ competencies?
This is the most common question that needs to be answered by supply logistics directors building their teams. Usually, they reach out to human resources and try to find experienced buyer specialist in big international companies. They are hoping to create a successful team with the experience brought by their employees. It is true that specialists are necessary for the company to actually benefit from building a professional supply team, but it is not the only element. Based on our experience and cooperation with buyers from many difference companies we conclude that a purchasing organisation may become efficient and effective only if its competences, goals and scope of operation are defined on the level of the company’s strategy, not of a unit or department, and it is highly positioned in the company’s organisational structure. Only if the above-mentioned conditions are met, the changes will affect the entire company so that it can effectively deliver its supply strategy.