What is Purchasing?

Purchasing is the organized acquisition of goods and services on behalf of the buying entity. Purchasing activities are needed to ensure that needed items are obtained in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost. A purchasing department is especially necessary in a manufacturing business, where large amounts of raw materials and components must be obtained on a recurring basis.


The purchasing department’s primary goals are as follows:

  • To locate suppliers that can provide goods and services in accordance with the buyer’s requirements.
  • To buy items that meet the quality specifications of the buyer.
  • To create a stream of deliveries into the buyer’s premises that minimize the raw materials inventory investment while still ensuring that goods are available as needed.

Common purchasing activities are as follows:

  • Receive and verify purchase requisitions from around the company.
  • Evaluate supplier responses to RFPs, select a winner, and negotiate a contract.
  • Prepare and issue request for proposal (RFP) documents to qualified suppliers.
  • Search for qualified suppliers that can fulfill the buyer’s needs.
  • Issue purchase orders to suppliers that authorize purchases. A master purchase order may be issued when there are a number of deliveries contemplated under a purchasing arrangement.
  • Administer contracts that have a longer duration.
  • Review open purchase orders to see if any should be closed.

There is a tendency for the purchasing function to be bogged down in paperwork, which is related to the excessive use of bidding procedures and the issuance of purchase orders. The function can be streamlined by replacing bidding with sole source arrangements for most purchases. Also, lower-cost purchases are now made with procurement cards, thereby avoiding the use of purchase orders.

The purchasing department may operate a freestanding purchasing software package, though the system is more effective if integrated into the software of the receiving and accounts payable functions.