19 October 2006 | Rebecca Ellinor
Nearly all buyers expect their responsibilities to grow over the next year, but few predict extra resources to meet expanding workloads.
In response to a poll by SM, 81 per cent of the 100 buyers polled said they expected their role to increase, while 14 per cent said it would remain static and 5 per cent expected a reduction
Many said while cost reduction is important, there are many more ways in which they can and should help. Sustainability, demand management, examining the potential benefits of shared services and finding more opportunities to add value were cited. Some said they were being called on for more help and guidance at a strategic level as well as to train others with buying responsibilities.
"Procurement needs to continue to develop from dealmakers to supply chain managers to deliver real added value," said Paul Hooft, manager of the materials management department at engineering company ABB
"An historical focus on cost reduction targets is not sufficient. We will have to take full responsibility for developing supply chains that are strategically aligned with the business objectives," added Dominic Jephcott, managing director of procurement organisation Vendigital.
Others expected procurement's role to grow because of its improved profile. One said buyers are now seen as "key players in the commercial success of a business," while another stated that for the first time all spend over £50,000 in her firm must go through purchasing.
While many are being asked to do more, it is without extra staff or budget.
"I will be increasingly required to lead cost-reduction projects in more categories of spend. The problem is there's no additional resources," said Nigel Stewart, head of procurement and facilities at Focus DIY.
"Staff numbers may be recommended to fall in coming years but the areas of procurement responsibility seem likely to continue to increase," said Jon Roberts, co-located commercial team leader at NATO Eurofighter & Tornado Management Agency. Another remarked his organisation needs extra staff to perform well but is only allowed them if it performs well.
Technology is seen as one way in which buyers can ease the burden.
"To enable them to cope, my feeling is that buyers will rely more heavily on technology," said Marc Frankl, senior procurement manager at Makella, a purchasing consultancy for the hospitality sector.
Indeed, e-procurement is expected to offset much of the increased responsibilities for the purchasing team at the Scottish Parliament.
In the public sector, the increasing trend to centralise procurement means organisations may have to expand their remit or find responsibilities transferred elsewhere.