In organisations, purchasing and supply (chain) management (PSM) professional (purchaser) is the interface between the internal business partner and suppliers in the supply chain. The purchaser understands the internal needs and the organisation’s processes and is constantly keeping an eye on the final customer or end-user. Due to the societal-demographic, environmental and technological changes, the purchaser is also facing more significant issues such as sustainable procurement; ethical and socially responsible buying; and how to handle machine-to-machine communication in the process called ‘Industry 4.0’.
In this course, the aim is to learn up-to-date ‘success’ skills and knowledge to develop a deeper understanding of what tactical and strategic aspects are involved in PSM and how these aspects can be analysed and managed. This introduction into purchasing and supply management provides an up-to-date mix of knowledge, theory and professional skills (hard skills) as well as interpersonal as intrapersonal skills [soft skills] to analyse the performance of the purchasing function in an organisation and make well-founded, inventive decisions on complex strategic purchasing issues. The course takes a challenge-based approach and is therefore open to multi-disciplinary student groups.
The discipline of PSM is gaining strategic importance in industrial companies and service organisations and the public sector. Typically, production organisations purchase over 60-80 per cent of their turnover (i.e. cost savings of, for instance, two per cent have a much more significant financial impact than the much smaller budgets of other disciplines like marketing, accounting & finance or HRM). In the last decade, PSM’s importance is increasing, and PSM is (becoming) probably the most strategic discipline in the field.
Our research projects show that PSM professionals need a strong basis of interpersonal and intrapersonal skills as tools to perform the hard professional skills in the PSM profession or any other profession. Therefore, the didactic of this course is entirely student-centred: PSM professionals are invited to perform active workshops on the content and personal development, and the further lectures are built upon student participation.
Therefore, this course introduces the discipline of PSM to Master students who missed PSM classes in their Bachelor’s at the university (of applied sciences). The learning objectives of this course are built upon the specific knowledge and skills of successful PSM practitioners:
This course consists of three projects:
1) Book chapter project
- Knowledge and theory – every student team (2-3 persons) writes a scientific paper on a topic (book chapter project)
- Knowledge and skills – every student team works on a strategic and tactical public procurement case (case study project)
- Interpersonal and intrapersonal skills for professional use – every student will reflect on their skills (soft skills project)
The students write their own textbooks for their open-book exam. Each student group performs a scientific literature review of journal articles and reports for one of the textbook’s chapters and present the findings in the final lectures. To get access to the PSM content and theories, the student is encouraged to work in teams and to communicate in a cross-cultural setting, to consider calculated risk, think out of the box, and find creative and inventive solutions to complex solutions problems. The aim is to (further) develop individual traits that are indispensable for a future career as a professional.
The book chapter project has proven to have positive effects on the abilities of students to write papers and theses. A Dutch article in UToday on students in the track 2020-2021 is illustrative - https://www.utoday.nl/news/69695/hier-kom-je-als-student-eigenlijk-niet-tussen. In the academic year 2021-2022, one of the chapters has been published in a scientific, peer-reviewed journal - https://www.utoday.nl/news/71000/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-supply-chain
and is published open access (https://www.mdpi.com/2305-6290/6/1/12
). In April 2022, this article was selected as “Editor’s Choice”. Another chapter of that cohort was further developed as a working paper for the conference IPSERA 2022.
During the Covid-lockdown in the online setting, the students valued the course because of the mix of knowledge, professional and personal skills, the team work and the short distance to the lecturers.
2) Case study project
Part of the course is solve real PSM cases that are provided by purchasers in public procurement and private purchasing. These case have in common that complex problems need to be solved with the acquired knowledge, creativity and inventiveness.
3) Soft skills project
For all projects, the course offers traditional, instructive lectures, case study kick-offs and case evaluations and practitioner workshops, amongst others, a negotiation workshop to understand the theory and to negotiate a deal and creativity and personality workshops. In the soft skills project, the individual students reflect on their skills development