Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Agents
Main Topic: Human Geography
Secondary Topic: Environment and Society
Overview: Buyers and purchasing agents buy products and services for organizations to use or resell. They evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and review the quality of products. Purchasing managers oversee the work of buyers and purchasing agents and typically handle more complex procurement tasks. Buyers and purchasing agents buy farm products, durable and nondurable goods, and services for organizations and institutions. They try to get the best deal for their organization: the highest quality goods and services at the lowest cost. They do this by studying sales records and inventory levels of current stock, identifying foreign and domestic suppliers, and keeping up to date with changes affecting both the supply of, and demand for, products and materials. Purchasing agents and buyers consider price, quality, availability, reliability, and technical support when choosing suppliers and merchandise. To be effective, purchasing agents and buyers must have a working technical knowledge of the goods or services they are purchasing. Evaluating suppliers is one of the most critical functions of a buyer or purchasing agent. They ensure the supplies are ordered in time so that any delays in the supply chain does not shut down production and cause the organization to lose customers. Buyers and purchasing agents use many resources to find out all they can about potential suppliers. They attend meetings, trade shows, and conferences to learn about new industry trends and make contacts with suppliers. They often interview prospective suppliers and visit their plants and distribution centers to assess their capabilities. Buyers and purchasing agents must make certain that the supplier can deliver the desired goods or services on time, in the correct quantities, and without sacrificing quality.
In this age of the global supply chain, purchases can literally be from anywhere. Whether it is in a different state or on the other side of the world, purchasing agents must understand the geographical context and how regulations, policies, political situations, culture, and economic trends may affect the ability to deliver the raw materials or products consistently and on-time.
Geography skills and awareness, therefore, are important for purchasing agents, buyers, and managers. By understanding geography, and the complexities and contexts of regional differences in culture, economics, law, politics, and physical geography, they will make much better purchasing decisions and ultimately be more successful in their roles.
Geographers at work: Business geographer, industrial geographer, cultural geographer, economic geographer, human geographers
Recommended College Courses: Business geography, urban geography, economic geography, cultural geography, industrial geography, human geography, physical geography
Skills: Understanding of economics, finance, markets, human behavior, and especially how business is influenced by geography (people and places); computer and database systems; critical thinking; teamwork
Occupation Group: Business and Financial
Learn more about Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Agents from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/purchasing-managers-buyers-and-purchasing-agents.htm
Written by Christopher Anderson