Young 'geeks' in rush to join purchasing profession

13 May 2011

13 May 2011 | Angeline Albert

The procurement profession is experiencing an influx of young people with analytical skills to maximise cost-saving opportunities.

But these new entrants are not getting the support or training they need, research by consultancy Efficio has warned.

According to the Grassroots Procurement Survey, 40 per cent of 175 European buyers said they have been working in purchasing for five years or less. In comparison, a third of all respondents had been working in the profession for at least 15 years.

James Jenkinson, vice-president at Efficio, told SM: “A lot of companies are realising the need for a more analytical approach to procurement to understand where there are cost-saving opportunities which will also help them negotiate with suppliers.

“Rather than put pressure on suppliers to drive down prices, this analytical approach requires the recruitment of new people who have a numbers-driven skill set. This approach brings a new breed of procurement people – involving a rise of the geek.”

But the study, conducted between September and December last year, found poor training and heavy workloads was hindering their purchasing.

Fewer than one in ten buyers said their training was of a high standard. Efficio said it is often too general and must be better tailored to the specific needs of purchasers.

Another key challenge was that two thirds of respondents managed at least 31 suppliers. The consultancy warned buyers must not be over-burdened with the management of too many suppliers. Focusing on a small number of core categories produces better results, increases staff motivation and improves relationships.

More than a quarter of respondents admitted they never or rarely changed suppliers, and half did not challenge specifications drawn up by non-professionals. In addition, just 19 per cent said they always provide feedback to suppliers, leading to a worsening in buyer-supplier relations. Most businesses were found to follow a formal sourcing process, but 67 per cent indicated this would be completed in 10 weeks or less.

“Times are changing in the world of procurement – it is becoming a younger profession making a huge contribution within the organisation,” said Jenkinson. “However there are still some serious weaknesses. Too much training is very general and fails to meet their needs. These gaps need to be filled so that procurement people can help make business more efficient, save money and improve services.”

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