A purchasing agent is a professional tasked with ensuring that sufficient quantities of essential materials are available for a company’s operations. In addition to ensuring that the company has the materials it requires to produce goods and services, the agent is frequently involved in negotiating prices for those materials. A purchasing agent may work alone in a small business or as part of a larger corporation’s purchasing team.
A basic job description for this position will detail the specific tasks that will be assigned to it. The agent may be in charge of managing inventory for everything from office supplies to raw materials used in manufacturing goods, depending on the culture and structure of the company. The agent may be given the authority to enter into contracts with vendors on behalf of the employer while making purchases for the inventory. In other cases, the purchasing agent may be actively involved in negotiations to secure the best unit pricing on the goods ordered, eventually referring the matter to an executive for approval before placing the initial order.
Most purchasing agent jobs necessitate constant price comparisons for various goods and services in order to save the company money. This is especially true if the company has multiple plants in different locations. Each plant will typically have a supply clerk who manages materials inventories at that level, but purchases are coordinated through a purchasing agent. A requisition for goods is typically submitted the clerk to the agent, who then evaluates the request. If it’s approved, the agent looks for the best deal on the goods and converts the requisition into a purchase order. The order is placed with the approved vendor at that point, and the goods are shipped directly to the plant where the request originated.
To be a successful purchasing agent, you must have excellent organizational skills, a thorough understanding of the industry, and the ability to quickly research and qualify vendors. Because an agent is likely to interact with other employees as well as vendors and suppliers, the ability to communicate clearly is essential. Because purchasing work in a large company can be stressful, a purchasing agent must be able to deal with tight deadlines and frequently manage multiple projects at once in order to complete his or her duties.