Construction buyers are responsible for procurement activities for products, materials, plant and subcontractors for construction projects. They typically work for the main contractor (although sub-contractors may also have buyers on large projects) to ensure that supplies are provided in accordance with both the project programme and budget.
Buyers make an important contribution to ensuring the project is profitable for the contractor, as they are responsible for purchasing the most cost-effective and appropriate materials, and this can change throughout the course of a project, which may last for several years.
The construction buyer must approach a variety of suppliers, to obtain quotes and to determine availability and terms. They will generally liaise with the cost planner and commercial team to ensure they are fully briefed on the cost, timing and risks associated with all purchases.
The duties and responsibilities of a construction buyer might include:
- Pre-construction involvement in design meetings regarding product selection.
- Obtaining prices for all supplies required to complete the works.
- Identifying and assessing potential suppliers and products.
- Maintaining detailed records such as tracking documents and purchasing databases.
- Analysing tender returns and making recommendations.
- Ensuring supplies and suppliers comply with safety, health and environmental and other requirements.
- Preparing and issuing contracts.
- Raising orders for supplies.
- Preparing and maintaining cost reports.
- Ensuring the flow of materials to maximise efficiency.
- Negotiating favourable terms and delivery times with suppliers.
- Taking part in value engineering and cost-saving initiatives.
Necessary skills for construction buyers include a good knowledge and understanding of all construction materials and plant and their relevant market. Often employers will require a buyer to have established relationships with builders’ merchants and other suppliers. Negotiation skills are necessary for agreeing prices and terms with suppliers.
While there are no formal entry routes to becoming a construction buyer, it is helpful to have a construction background. Apprenticeships can sometimes be a useful starting point.
In terms of training it is very often on-the-job, although NVQ’s are available in Supply Chain Management (at levels 2-5), and examinations through the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS).
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