A materials buyer identifies sources for materials required by an employer and arranges for purchase of those materials. This job can involve a wide variety of industries and working environments. There are no special requirements for a position as a materials buyer, although some training in business administration is helpful, as is experience with the procurement and management of materials.
Materials buyers are given lists of necessary materials by their employers and may also work with individual departments during project development to help those departments identify the best materials for the project. Using information about what the employer needs, the materials buyer researches sources and compares quality, pricing, delivery policies, and other terms and conditions. The buyer may also work on establishing professional relationships with sources for materials, especially if the need will be ongoing.
This job can involve anything from buying chemistry supplies for a college or university to obtaining raw materials for garment manufacturing. Materials buyers often have to travel to inspect products and meet with potential suppliers. They can also find themselves in the office at odd hours to interact with suppliers in different time zones and they need to be effective and efficient communicators. Being able to describe needs when working with suppliers is critical to ensure delivery of the right materials.
Detailed knowledge is also helpful, as a materials buyer may need to make decisions about substitutions and other options available when making orders for materials. Other issues to consider can include things like labor laws and environmental regulations. The buyer may work for a company with a commitment to ethical supply sourcing, for example, or be employed in a nation where there are strict rules about raw materials used in manufacturing and other industries.
Depending on the size of the company, a materials buyer may have one or more assistants to help with research and order placement. Knowledge of software is usually a requirement, as buyers need to be able to interact with internal inventory systems, as well as ordering programs maintained by suppliers. Being able to think creatively and critically can be valuable as well, since materials buyers may need to be able to act fast to secure supplies of materials, to make snap decisions under pressure, and to anticipate materials needs on the part of employers to ensure materials availability. Mistakes made during materials procurement can result in costly shutdowns and frustration.