Three and a half decades ago, purchasing technology consisted of the three-ply traveling requisitions and a telephone for
ordering. When doing a detailed purchasing analysis, we were armed with a sharp pencil, lined paper, and a basic calculator.
Early manufacturing resource planning systems with purchasing modules that aided in planning and produced a printed requisition
were soon implemented. By the mid- to late 1990s, the first P2P (procure-to-payment) systems were available that automated
the full cycle of requisitioning, approvals, ordering, tracking, receipt, and payment. Next to arrive was technology that
allowed procurement to do online bidding (i.e., reverse auctions). Today, procurement technology has evolved to significantly
improve process efficiencies (less headcount required), automatically analyze spend (identifies more savings opportunities),
drive incremental savings (bottom-line impact), and enable effective control and contracting of critical spends (risk management).
New solutions now allow organizations to compete better by using a true marketplace approach that automatically does the bidding
and negotiation for the buyer. Solutions that perform combinatorial optimization for complex global spends result in new levels
of savings and end-user satisfaction.
. In the late 1970s, best purchasing practices were more associated with good inventory-management processes. The purchasing
focus was on how to work with suppliers to receive goods just-in-time with suppliers owning the inventory until needed by
the manufacturing line. I was associated with some of these early, difficult efforts that often were performed just-in-case
because the risks were just too high to not keep adequate inventory on hand. By the mid 1990s, procurement began adopting
a new best practice, strategic sourcing, a seven-step disciplined process that ensured well-defined specifications, requirements,
supplier and market knowledge, and a competitive process used for bidding and negotiation. With each passing year, more procurement
analytics and strategy have been used to continually make improvements to the acquisition process, overall cost benefits,
and total value provided. Best practices also have been developed for supplier management and supplier relationship management
that focuses on getting ever-increasing value from the supply base beyond simply savings.
When I was starting out, purchasing departments were fragmented, decentralized functions that primarily existed to ensure
that goods and services were delivered on time. During the past 15 to 20 years, a new model evolved and perfected where a
central procurement group establishes common policies, procedures, and technology that allow corporations to develop the appropriate
local, regional, or global strategies to maximize savings and value from the supply base.
In closing, the past 35 years have witnessed a remarkable transformation for the organization tasked with managing a company's
overall third-party expenditure. The evolution of purchasing to procurement has allowed corporations to enhance profitability
in new ways. With a best-practice procurement organization in place, more dollars are dropped to the bottom line, and incremental
value is elicited from the supply base on an ongoing basis.
is senior vice-president of FedBid, and formerly senior advisor for A.T. Kearney Procurement and Analytic Solutions, Gregg.Brandyberry@FedBid.com