Procurement professional comes of age

In the past it was common to view procurement as a back office administration function, however more often these days, management considers the role as strategic.

“The Supply Chain fraternity has experienced unprecedented recognition in recent years,” observes Graham Duncan, founder and director of online recruitment company ProcureNet.

“What used to be termed buying/purchasing and stock control is now called strategic procurement and stores/warehousing and transport is now better known as logistics.”

“The new titles reflect the increased recognition these roles have achieved.”

Duncan, who has over thirty years experience in the procurement field (including labour-hire) with three of Australia’s largest resource companies, plus exposure to manufacturing and government organisations, says contract administration, procurement, warehousing and distribution systems have undergone major change.

“There have been great advances in the standard of performance provided by, and expected of, practitioners in our field,” he says.

“Procurement practitioners have earned this recognition in part by achieving higher qualifications and performance.”

According to Duncan the changes also came about due to the pressures that the Y2K scare, the introduction of GST, and globalisation has put on business and trading relationships.

“Contracts, procurement, logistics and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems generally, had to be restructured to cope, and supply chain professionals along with the IT industry were in the spotlight and expected to deliver many of the needed changes, often under extreme time pressure,” he recalls.

“I guess you could say this has become our millennium.”

“I started trading as Supply and Contract Resources in 1994 to provide contract staff placements and consultancy services in the field of supply and logistics, procurement and contract administration,” Duncan says.

“By 1997, developments in electronic communication and the electronic trading capability of the Internet made it practical to provide a range of services on-line, so I decided to change our trading name to ProcureNet.”

“We have since developed a network of franchised offices throughout Australia and contacts internationally to provide quality procurement and logistics staff, systems and contract administration expertise serving the public, private, manufacturing and resource sectors.”

Graham Duncan says the aim of ProcureNet is to ensure that clients have access to a pool of experienced and qualified professionals and systems in Supply Administration, Purchasing and Contracts, Materials/Inventory Control, Warehousing and Logistics.

“Professional standards are determined by the quality of results and the efficiency and manner in which they are achieved” he says.

“Procurement, Logistics and the Supply Chain generally are such extensive fields that a ‘Procurement Professional’ needs to have a broad understanding of all aspects of a business, from design/engineering/production and maintenance within an industry, through the warehousing, transport and distribution functions, plus materials control, negotiation and purchasing skills to build and maintain sound long-term trading relationships with both internal customers and suppliers alike.”

“All dealings must be in accordance with a professional code of ethics.”

While employers are looking for these sorts of skills, Duncan says the nature of the business or industry determines where the specialist emphasis must be.

“It’s very difficult to find individuals with high aptitudes in all aspects of the Supply Chain,” he observes.

”For example, a good warehouse manager will not necessarily be a good contracts manager, and inventory control and distribution skills are more important in retail or manufacturing environments than in a service industry.”

“I believe employers are looking for general business qualifications coupled with specialist technical training.”

“Senior procurement staff must concentrate on the longer-term strategic aspects of the Supply Chain, such as developing Supply and Service agreements, whereas the more junior roles must manage the day-to-day challenges of meeting immediate customer demands, such as direct purchasing, expediting and stores control,” Duncan maintains.”

In terms of the key qualifications procurement professionals must acquire, Duncan is unequivocal.

“I started with general business/commercial and industrial engineering studies certificates followed by specialised short courses in inventory management, contract law and computer systems,” he says.

“That type of content is still relevant and is incorporated in most good business degrees majoring in the Supply Chain and Procurement. We must all strive for an MBA.”

“It may sound old-fashioned, but I still believe it is best to work your way up the ladder from the shop floor,” Duncan says.

“Starting as a stores officer, preferably with customer counter exposure, through cataloguing/inventory control and systems support to supervision in any area, then purchasing and contracts to strategic sourcing and management responsibilities reflects a solid career path.”

“The customer service aspects a person experiences at the store counter is still the most important thing to recall when top management level is achieved.”

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