Academic journal article International Journal of Purchasing and Materials Management

An Analysis of the Purchasing Manager's Position in Private, Public, and Nonprofit Settings

Academic journal article International Journal of Purchasing and Materials Management

An Analysis of the Purchasing Manager's Position in Private, Public, and Nonprofit Settings

Article excerpt

A common perception held within the purchasing community is that the work of private sector, public sector, and nonprofit sector purchasers is widely disparate. This report describes a large-scale study conducted to answer the question of how much the duties of the purchasing manager actually differ across seven major work settings: manufacturing, U.S. government, state/local government, institutions, services, retail, and food sectors. A total of 1,496 purchasers selected at random from each of these areas responded to a survey asking them to indicate their job duties. The results showed relatively little difference in the duties of purchasers across the various areas. The implications of these results include a major change in how the differences between the purchasing function in the various settings can be viewed. Another implication is the possible enhancement of the certified purchasing manager examination (C.P.M.) into a universal purchasing certification instrument.


In 1974, the National Association of Purchasing Management established the Certified Purchasing Manager Program. This program was instituted for the purpose of maintaining recognized professional standards in the field of purchasing, enhancing individual professional competence, and assisting employers by providing them with a means for identifying qualified individuals in the field.

A major requirement for obtaining the designation of certified purchasing manager (C.P.M.) is the successful completion of the C.P.M. examination, which is a written test of knowledge and skills in purchasing and related areas. One of the most frequently voiced concerns about the C.P.M. exam over the years has been the question of whether or not the test is valid for all sectors of the profession. This concern is based on the perception that the purchasing manager's job duties vary greatly between the various job sectors, and that no exam could possibly be relevant to all areas of the profession.

However, a recent investigation involving cross-sector comparisons of purchasing conducted by Kolchin[1] casts considerable doubt on this perception. Kolchin found a number of similarities in the jobs of purchasers in the industrial, governmental, institutional, and retail sectors. Among his conclusions were the following:

1. That the goals of buyers in the various sectors were

essentially the same: to buy goods and services that

meet the needs of their customers at the lowest total

cost possible.

2. That the process followed by purchasers in each sector

was also the same: to identify a need, locate qualified

sources, ask the sources to make proposals, choose the

best source, negotiate the terms and conditions of a

contract, and monitor the performance of the chosen


Kolchin stated that buying in one sector differs from that in another sector mostly by degree, and that the buying process generally does not differ across sectors. He also concluded that there is a "common body of knowledge that is applicable to all sectors, with some modification required for each particular situation."[2]

Kolchin's results have profound implications for the C.P.M. examination and for the entire certification program. They would suggest that it is in the profession's interest to broaden rather than to narrow the definition of the purchasing manager, and that the development of a universal certification instrument for the purchasing profession is indeed a feasible goal.

Accordingly, the NAPM Certification Board sought to address this issue by conducting a new job analysis of the purchasing manager's position. The term "job analysis" refers to procedures typically utilized in personnel research and industrial psychology to gather information about the specific work activities or tasks of a job. …

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