National Purchasing and Supply Management Associations: A Means to Reinforce Professional Skills

Article excerpt

The functions of purchasing and supply can be strengthened through activities of national bodies of this type.

Buying executives and supply officers in developing countries and economies in transition are increasingly joining purchasing and supply management associations or establishing such groupings because of the possibilities offer for training, advice and information needed to improve professional performance. In developed countries, purchasing and supply managers began to form professional associations over 80 years ago. Today nearly 50 such associations exist throughout the world, with a membership of more than 150,000 persons.

Much still remains to be done to build up this type of institution, but the contribution these associations have made to the development of purchasing and supply management techniques and practices in their countries warrants a close look by those who have not yet joined this movement.

Role

A purchasing and supply management association operates on the basis of the voluntary membership of professionals in this field. Among its characteristics are:

* Nonprofit operation within an appropriate legal framework allowing it to bring together purchasing and supply professionals from all sectors of activity in a country, both private and public.

* Independent: while open to all for membership in accordance with pre-established criteria, it ideally remains independent from political, business or other organizations.

* Self-financed, initially through the annual dues paid by its members. As such funding is limited, however, associations quickly have to undertake income-generating activities, particularly through training.

Training has often been the main source of income for institutions of this type. While an association may also initially receive subsidies from sponsoring organizations or enterprises, this should not weaken its independence or autonomy.

* Governed by statutes that state its objectives, membership admission criteria and mode of functioning.

* Managed by a board of directors elected by a general assembly and led by a president elected from among board members. The board of directors draws up the association's programme of activities and oversees implementation. Although the president is the official representative of the association, board members exercise overall direction on a collegiate basis.

All persons involved at any level in the chain of purchasing and supply operations are usually eligible to become members. A minimum length of service may be stipulated, for example two or three years' experience. However, no distinction should be made between members in the public and private sectors. In certain cases, companies may join the association as corporate members. This has the advantages of involving a greater number of persons through such member companies and of increasing the association's resource base. Membership should not be compulsory. Applications for membership should be based strictly on personal and professional motives.

Objectives

The principal objectives of such an association are to:

* Promote and highlight the importance of the purchasing function. In some enterprises, for example, purchasing and supply management plays only a support role for other functions such as production. Purchasing units are sometimes attached to other departments and are therefore not able to act in an autonomous and rational manner in the best overall interests of the enterprise or organization.

* Represent the interests of the profession at all levels: within the enterprise and among its directors, as well as vis-a-vis institutions and government bodies, including those responsible for public procurement.

* Improve the knowledge and skills of managers and staff responsible for purchasing and supply management activities. This is one of the association's fundamental activities, aimed at helping professional buyers and materials managers to keep up to date with the latest developments in purchasing and supply management techniques. …