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Purchasing Agents Must Meet The 21st Century Needs
Andy Spiteri, ISHP – Starwood Vacation Ownership

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September 2009

Thirty-one years has past, it seems as if the requirements for being a Professional Purchasing Agent have increased 31 fold.
Some of us began with pencils, index cards, a 10 key calculator, and a great memory. We did our negotiating on the telephone, wrote letters when we felt it was necessary to CYA. Amazingly we purchased for Hotels and Casino's with over a thousand rooms each, managed to bring Projects in under budget and on time. Things just seemed to be simpler then, sure we still researched the products we were buying to insure we were getting the best product for the dollar value expected, but there was a sincere element of trust between the vendor and the buyer. Just knew when we ordered that model: 3103 nightstand, the vendor was going to deliver a product that would meet or exceed our expectations.
Today we stare into a 22" Flat screen monitor, being driven by a 5-gigabit computer, with email, I mail, purchasing programs, reminder software, and calculating programs. The 21st Century Professional Purchasing Agent must be near to an expert in all the fields surrounding purchasing, in contracts, accounting, manufacturing, packaging, shipping, freighting inland and freighting overseas, receiving, delivering, and installation. Here are some thoughts to ponder:
Some States have discounts on use tax when the total amount exceeds a set range; other States and Counties tax labor and even freight. Today's Purchasing Agent needs to have an understanding of the tax jurisdictions for the State and County they are shipping from and to. Purchasing Companies that bid for their Projects could easily lose that promising Project over something simple as a tax statue.
Buying materials for a Project outside the US mainland? Its’ best to research what that country will allow you to ship in. Some countries want to make the bed-sets, if the Purchasing Agent is not aware of these restrictions, it may be a costly mistake.
Use of labor outside the United States, can also result in a costly mistake, some countries require that you use a percent of locals when working Projects in their country. Do not ever attempt to work around their Countries rules; the results could be devastating for your company and your customer.
The buyer must know how the furniture is constructed, what is the substrate, how thick, how dense, what type of wood was used to make the veneer, MM thickness, glues used - oil base or water base, where is the hardware manufactured, name brand or knockoff? Some vendors will use less expensive materials to get the order such as Masonite instead of plywood, photographic paper in lieu of veneer, even cardboard for backing. The furniture may look good from a design standpoint, but the quality will not hold up to guest abuse over time.
Today's Professional Purchasing Agent, needs to take all the steps necessary to insure that the product will last in some cases at least 12 years for casegoods, with that said, it is imperative that the buyer directs the vendor to use the best quality products for the budget. The buyer should know and understand the proper use of the products i.e. woods, veneers, glues, PU's, lacquers, hardware and construction terminology. And make the vendor be held accountable if specifications are not kept.
Most buyers understand FR requirements, usages of NFPA 260 on upholstered goods and NFPA 701 on drapes, but California and Boston hold to a high requirement. Do all fabrics need to be FR-ed? The whole science of FR technology has changed over the years with the introduction of Trevira CS, Avora and other inherent polyesters. The 21st Century Buyer, needs to understand where to use inherent treatments and where to use the solution treatments, as a buyer you may be held liable if a fire results from the improper treatment of the products you are purchasing. Always require FR certificates when purchasing fabrics for your own protection.
With the introduction of vendors producing goods outside the United States -  Homeland Security, CBP and TSA wants to keep America safe, if you have done business in Mexico you are aware of the restrictions and increases in duties if you bring products into their Country. The United States is pushing for stronger restrictions on Anti-dumping, dumping occurs when a foreign firm sells merchandise in the US market at a price lower than the price it charges for a comparable product sold in its home market. The 10+2 Rule: introduced in January 2009 requires importers and ocean carriers to electronically submit to CBP on vessels destined for the United States, Importers are responsible for 10 additional data elements, to mention a few: Manufacturer, Consolidator, Buyer, "ship to" names and addresses, container stuffing location, Importer and consignee record numbers, etc. The Lacey Act: makes it unlawful to import, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any plant under the regulation of the US Department of Agriculture; the revised plan identifies a list of product and the HTS.
Our list of required knowledge does not stop here, many of us continue to be informed about Leeds certification, green, new formaldehyde restrictions, nationwide FR codes for casegoods, along with the list of ever changing software.
A Profession Purchasing Agent in the 21st. Century must stay informed to the latest rules, laws and innovations that will impact their realm, for both customer and their own investment.

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