“Who are the best candidates for procurement manager jobs?”

That’s a question that is on the mind of every supply chain director seeking to fill an open procurement manager position.

Is there an obvious answer?

Well, there is a common answer:  procurement specialists.

But that isn’t the only good answer.  And may not be the best answer.

There is more than one path to a procurement manager job.  Here are some – but not all – various job roles that have led into procurement manager positions and the contexts in which they make the most sense:

  • Engineer:  It’s been written that 80% or more of a manufactured product’s cost is determined when the design is finished.  If the procurement department is responsible for cost control, that fact leaves little room for procurement influence – particularly if the procurement department is not involved early in product design.  And it is often difficult for a procurement department to get invited to the product design party.  That’s because procurement is often perceived as a function without engineering expertise and, as such, one that can contribute little to no value.  However, if the procurement specialist assigned to the category in which products are being developed is an engineer, that boosts procurement’s credibility immensely.  And  if that credibility can be leveraged into increased early procurement involvement, then procurement can have much greater cost control influence.
  • Accountant:  In many organizations, the perceived value of procurement depends on cost savings.  More specifically, legitimate, verified cost savings.  I add those adjectives because I have seen many procurement cost savings claims be ridiculously inflated.  Where standard cost savings definitions are vague or even non-existent, goofy things often show up on cost savings reports.  To have credibility, cost savings claims need to have a clear impact on an organization’s financial statements.  Unfortunately, not every procurement professional is trained on financial principles and that leads to an unacceptable disconnect between procurement cost savings reporting and financial reporting.  By having an accountant in a procurement manager role, the procurement department is positioned to reconcile its cost savings calculations with financial reporting, gaining more credibility in the process.
  • Warehouse Manager:  There is an unfortunate schism between the “white collar” workforce and the “blue collar” workforce.  This can lead to turf wars where the blue collar warehouse staff is never found in the white collar procurement staff’s office space and procurement professionals rarely visit the warehouse.  So much procurement-related activity happens in the warehouse area as materials move from the receiving dock to inventory shelves to the shipping dock or manufacturing area.  And many material availability problems arise between these points.  Understanding the flow of materials can help a procurement professional tweak procurement processes or make changes in how suppliers are asked to perform to avoid problems.  Promoting a warehouse manager to a procurement management position can accelerate the learning curve and drive some true improvement in supply chain processes.
  • Procurement Specialist:  A procurement specialist is often a great choice for a procurement manager position.  The reason it is not the only choice is often because many procurement specialists take a narrow view of their role.  Instead of taking a comprehensive view of the organization and how to optimize processes for the business, they simply focus on being good at only the core procurement functions.  That’s not enough in today’s business world.  However, if a procurement professional commits to learning the ins and outs of all functions that interact with procurement:  finance, inventory, quality, social responsibility, etc. while also being a master of core procurement functions, then a promotion from within can be a superior choice for filling that procurement manager position.

As you can see, there is no single set of work experiences that qualifies a candidate for a procurement manager position.  Hiring directors need to evaluate where the most potential for improvement is and/or what problems require solutions most urgently when determining what past experience will be most valuable in taking the procurement department to the next level.

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is the Founder of the Next Level Purchasing Association. Charles is also the Co-Author of "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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