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What is procurement?

Author: Nick Ando

Agamemnon, sometime in the early 10th century BC, toured around Greece amassing the greatest army the world had ever known, in order to retrieve his beloved wife Helen from the Trojans. Agamemnon was conscious that he, alone, did not have the military capacity to take Troy, so he turned to the other Greeks cities to supply him with everything he needed.

Ultimately, Agamemnon took back a reluctant Helen after years of battle, so perhaps it had not been worth after all.

Around the summer of 2005 my father decided to build a swimming pool in our vacation home. My father has had a history of being willing to take on challenges with no prior training, always ready to jump into the deep end, and this pool was no exception. He got straight to it once the relevant land purchases had been made: the blueprints were drawn up, the builders were contacted, and the permits were attended to. Once an assessment of the area had been made, and a preliminary list of materials had been compiled, my father began acquiring relatively expensive concrete from a reputable source.

Upon the arrival of the first batch, one of the builders approached him to offer some advice. In this brief exchange it was suggested, by the builder, that the price of the materials could be seriously reduced by procuring concrete from a different supplier. My father was, of course, sceptical, but still he agreed to go through with it, perhaps an overconfident move to demonstrate his newly achieved savviness.When the new concrete started to be poured in, my father took a sample and had it sent to a friend to be analysed. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a debased type of concrete and the supplier was rapidly dismissed.

But the moral of the story is not this; it’s not that it is wrong to cut corners, rather it is about the lesson my father proceeded to learn. After this hiccup he turned to external companies, ordering from outside of Italy. The quality was much higher, the price was lower, and the guarantees were honoured. He learned that it’s better to assess a series of suppliers rather than going for what was easiest, cheapest, or most readily available.

The process on which my father boarded was one of assessment though purchase: at each step my father assessed the concrete by its quality and its price, often seeking outside council. Although the entire ordeal could have been avoided by visiting each supplier individually it would have been a great drain on time, as well as money. While his acquisition of the materials did not come at the best possible financial cost, it taught him a lot about procurement.

Ultimately Procurement is a timeless ubiquitous process and is one that has fuelled development and innovation since the invention of trade. Procurement has historically been important, from Agamemnon recruiting soldiers all over Greece to my father buying concrete, but it always serves the same purpose: to meet the needs specific needs of a purchaser at a given time and place.


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