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09/23/2010

From Buyer to Resource Manager

Industrial buyers today must be able to handle complex challenges. Limited potentials: 68 percent of German companies have no or not enough purchasing talents. This is a situation also complained about by the Bundesverband Materialeinkauf und Logistik in Österreich (Federal Association of Materials Purchasing and Logistics in Austria).

In Germany, purchasing departments are short of good people: 68 percent of the companies have no talents or too few. This is the result of the study "Personnel barometer for purchasing 2010" prepared by the personnel consultancy Penning Consulting in cooperation with Kerkhoff Consulting. More than 500 purchasing and personnel managers of medium-sized companies were interviewed for the study. According to their own statements, it is especially the low qualification of applicants that presents problems for 67 percent of the companies interviewed. Particularly the 'old school' purchasing departments frequently have staff without any academic qualifications and with inadequate training so that they won't be able to meet the requirements of modern purchasing management.

Three quarters of those interviewed in the study emphasized that it is difficult to find suitable applicants for their vacancies. In every second company, searches for a suitable industrial buyer will take between four to six months, often even longer yet. Moreover, 71 percent of those interviewed indicated that positions in purchasing departments remain open due to the excessively high discrepancy between desired salary and target salary. "Personnel managers will have to do some rethinking", says Stephan Penning, managing director of Penning Consulting. "Buyers provide huge value contributions for their enterprises and today require comprehensive training. That's why their salary level must also be clearly increased and adjusted to that of other corporate divisions."

Bleak Purchasing
That the Austrian practice looks just as bleak has also been confirmed by Heinz Pechek, a business management graduate and the managing director of the Bundesverband Materialeinkauf und Logistik in Österreich (BMÖ) and also special expert of the Austrian buyers' scene. "Purchasing departments are lacking university graduates to be able to meet the requirements of today's highly complex purchasing management", Heinz Pechek sounds the alarm in his conversation with BUSINESS+LOGISTIC. The situation will turn especially awkward before the backdrop that it's precisely the purchasing department which is the starting point of any value-added chain and thus is also vitally important for the corporate result and success. "Today, buyers take on a special responsibility in companies", as Professor Wolfgang Stölzle of the University of St. Gallen also says. "All our studies which we conducted jointly with the Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach (Institute for Public Opinion Polls and Research in Allensbach) in recent months have shown: There is a huge increase in the strategic importance of purchasing. That's exactly why today's buyers need excellent training and accordingly qualification as well."

Studies for "Procurement"
For Austria, Pechek has also been demanding this academic qualification for a long time already. "I found that the largest Austrian business and economics university, the Vienna WU, does not even offer a lecture on the subject of "Purchasing". In my mind, that's a major failure. Buyers are to be trained on an academic level", says Pechek. He suggests that a "Procurement" slot should be introduced at Vienna's WU as a short-term solution to the problem. Heinz Pechek even goes further yet – because, for him, that would only be a first step in solving the current problems in Austrian purchasing: "In the medium range, a separate study program with a final degree should be set up since buyers mutate to resource managers who, in addition to purchasing, must also keep an eye on a company's processes in production and sales." The BMÖ could here be helpful, says Pechek in conclusion.