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What does a Purchasing Supervisor do?

By Jeri Sullivan
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A purchasing supervisor is a type of manager responsible for the procurement group. As part of their job, purchasing supervisors support business operations by reviewing purchase requisitions, approving purchase price variances, and controlling excess and obsolete costs. If the purchasing supervisor is employed by a manufacturing facility, he will also be responsible for working with program management and production schedulers to determine when material will be available for operations to build products.

Purchase requisitions are the requests to buy products for support of customer orders. A purchasing supervisor reviews the purchase requisitions and determines what needs to be ordered. The actual order entry is performed by buyers who work for the purchasing supervisor. Typically, these purchase requisitions will be an output of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Before authorizing the buyers to place orders with suppliers, the purchasing supervisor will meet with members of the management staff to confirm that customer order demand and factory capacity are sufficient to support these orders.

Purchase price variances (PPV) are the result of a quoted unit price being higher than the standard unit price loaded in the ERP system. An unfavorable PPV may potentially cause the company to make less profit, so the purchasing supervisor must review any unfavorable PPVs to determine the cause. If the cause is due to customer-induced issues such as requests in lead time or smaller quantities required than what was originally quoted, the purchasing manager will submit a request to the program manager to get the PPV recovered from the customer. If the cause is related to buyer error or other non-customer-induced problems, the purchasing supervisor will perform root cause analysis and provide additional training or process updates as needed to prevent the problem from occurring in the future.

Purchasing managers are also responsible for controlling excess and obsolete costs. Excess is the amount of material owned by a company that is greater than the demand provided by their customer. Obsolete refers to any material that has zero demand, thus no use. Purchasing supervisors periodically review on hand and on order material detail to ensure there will be no stranded material.

In the event a demand change from the customer causes material to become excess, the purchasing supervisor will work with the buyers and attempt to return the excess to the original supplier. After this due diligence is performed, any material still stranded is usually submitted in an excess claim to the customer for payment. Obsolete material is often due to an engineering change which may have removed a particular component from the bill of materials. The purchasing department will try to return the parts or find another way to use them. If it is unsuccessful, an obsolete claim will be submitted to the customer.

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