Is there a place for creativity in purchasing?
When I bring up the word creativity with my dialogue partners from purchasing, I often become polarised. People from top management in particular still see buyers as price pushers and not as creative employees. After all, purchasing is about numbers, data and facts. I can't entirely agree with that. Of course they play a role. But in order to counteract the situation that currently prevails in purchasing and on the market, I think a good deal of creativity is also needed in purchasing.
Across all industries, I observe that the stress in purchasing departments is immensely high. This also has to do with the current market situation. Currently, there are enormous price increases for various materials. Be it steel, paper or wood, and currently also massively for petrol, electricity and gas. Getting these materials or energy on board means stress.
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Ubiquitous stress and high turnover
Even before the price increases, the crises caused by Corona and the war in Ukraine, there was a high level of stress in the purchasing departments. I have experienced extremely high turnover in many places and many of my management colleagues complain that they can't get skilled people to work in purchasing, either on the market or in-house. What happens in companies when the burden on buyers becomes greater and greater? In the end, it means that poorer quality may be purchased. This in turn affects production and also has an impact on costs in the company. The company's own risk also increases. It could come to a standstill and you quickly find yourself in the situation of not being able to deliver. What many also underestimate is that a poorly positioned purchasing department in one's own company is also no support for the company's internal sales.
The search for the culprits
In many companies, competitive pressure and stress lead to blocking each other. But especially when it comes to strategy, purchasing and in-house sales belong together. However, all too often they do not pull together, but rather engage in "finger-pointing". Purchasing points to production, production points to logistics, sales points to purchasing, and so on. A culprit is sought for everything - but the search for one keeps from finding real solutions. For this reason, creativity in purchasing is not just nice to have, but enormously important. A change in thinking must also take place in management. If the focus is always on the question of blame - and believe me, I have experienced often enough that purchasing is made the scapegoat - then it is not surprising that hardly any good employees want to work in purchasing departments anymore. With every employee who leaves, valuable know-how also leaves the company. And no one can afford that in today's world. So, if you continue as before, the road leads directly to a dead end.
Creativity in purchasing
Personally, I see the buyer as someone who has to be creative. Managers are also called upon to promote the willingness of buyers to innovate. However, innovations and new trends are only beneficial if one also has ideas on how to implement them in one's own company. In this context, the question now arises where exactly creativity is applied in purchasing. I see it quite clearly in the building of interdisciplinary teams. Purchasing will be more and more involved in such teams in the future and building them up will only succeed with creativity and a view beyond the end of one's nose. To this end, managers must also promote the willingness to cooperate between purchasing and internal sales. In discussions, the buyers can report what is currently going on in the market towards suppliers and the salespeople have the view from the market towards the customers. The perspective of both departments is necessary to create innovative and creative solutions. Even when it comes to new processes and projects, purchasing should be involved from the beginning. If the purchasing department is only involved at the end, there is usually not much that can be done to change the situation.
Early linking and networking of managers with other departments as well as creative thinking outside the box are indispensable for every company today. In addition, it is important to support the young people who are now entering the labour market and will become the skilled workers of the future. Because they already bring many creative and innovative approaches with them.
Finally, I ask you how creative your purchasing is. If you still see potential for improvement, then let's talk about it. Simply connect with me on LinkedIn or make a free appointment.
You can also listen to more on this and other topics for future-proof strategies in purchasing in my podcast.