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Direct Vs. Indirect Procurement

  • By ProcureDesk
  • July 14,2023
  • 10 min read

Direct Vs. Indirect Procurement

Direct Vs. Indirect Procurement


Are you confused about the difference between indirect and direct purchasing? If so, you’re not alone.

A lot of businesses find it tricky too. But we’re here to help you out! In this blog post, we will explain the differences between direct and indirect purchasing in the simplest way. Aside from that, we’ll give you awesome tips on how you can handle each purchase like a pro.

So, get ready to become a procurement expert and rock your business operations! Let’s dive right in and uncover the secrets of direct and indirect purchasing.

direct vs indirect procurement

If you’re looking for an AP Automation System to help you streamline your business operations, our software ProcureDesk might do the trick! See ProcureDesk in action here

What Is Direct Procurement?

Direct procurement is when your business acquires raw materials, resources, goods, and other services that your business needs to operate. The goods and services you procure through direct procurement go straight to your end customers. This is vital to ensure everything in your business keeps flowing seamlessly.

What Are Examples Of Direct Procurement?

1. Raw Materials: These include your business’s basic materials to create your product or services. Example: A car manufacturer purchasing raw materials like steel or glass.

2. Subcontracted Labor: This is the work you contract from another company. Example: If you own a construction company, you might subcontract your electrical wiring installation to another contractor.

3. Machinery and Equipment: This example of direct procurement includes the equipment and tools you utilize to produce the goods or services your business offers successfully. Example: If you own a factory, you may need robots and assembly lines.

4. Parts and components: This example of direct procurement includes the individual materials that make up the product or service you deliver to your end users. Example: If you’re a computer manufacturer, you might purchase parts or components such as hard drives or processors.

what is direct procurement?

What Is Indirect Procurement?

Indirect procurement is acquiring goods or services that do not necessarily directly impact the final product you offer to your end users. However, these goods or services exist to help you in your daily operations, just like stationery or office supplies. Let’s say these are the gears turning smoothly behind the scenes of your business operations.

What Are Examples Of Indirect Procurement?

1. IT-related services: This includes purchasing software, hardware, and IT services such as cloud computing, consulting, and training. Example: Your company might purchase software from a vendor or hire a consultant to help you with your IT infrastructure.
2. Facilities management: This includes purchasing services such as cleaning, security, and maintenance.Example: Your company might hire a cleaning company to clean your office or a security company to provide your premise security.
3. Travel and entertainment: This includes purchasing travel expenses such as airfare, hotel accommodations, and meals. Example: Your company might book flights for your organization’s employees to attend a conference.
3. Marketing and advertising: This includes purchasing services such as advertising, public relations, and marketing research. Example: Your company might hire an advertising agency to create a marketing campaign or pay for a research firm to conduct research.
4. Office supplies: This includes purchasing office supplies such as paper, pens, and printers. Example: Your company might purchase paper from your suppliers or even buy a new printer for the office.
5. Utilities: This includes purchasing electricity, gas, and water. Example: your company might sign a contract with an electric company to provide your establishment with access to electricity.
6. Rent: This includes purchasing office space or other rented premises. Example: Your company might need to sign a lease with a landlord to rent an office space for your organization.
7. Fleet management: This includes the purchase of vehicles and the management of their use. Example: Your company might need to purchase a fleet of cars for the employees in your organization.

what is indirect procurement?

What Are The Differences Between Direct And Indirect Procurement?

direct vs indirect spending

Planned vs. Spontaneous Spend

Direct Procurement

Direct procurement is a planned and strategic process. It involves detailed analysis, forecasting, and negotiation to secure the necessary goods or materials to support your business’ ongoing production or service delivery.

Indirect Procurement

On the other hand, indirect procurement involves more spontaneous spending. This is because it’s focused on purchasing the ad-hoc needs of your company. The nature of indirect goods or services is very flexible, allowing quicker purchasing decisions to meet your company’s daily requirements.

Related: Procurement Strategy For Purchasing Cost Reduction

Customer-Vendor Relationship

Direct Procurement

Direct procurement involves a closer customer-vendor relationship. Undoubtedly, your suppliers are critical in delivering goods, services, and materials that directly contribute to your final product. Thus, collaboration and effective communication with your suppliers is important to ensure you produce product quality that meets your customer’s demands.

Indirect Procurement

For indirect procurement, maintaining a good relationship with your vendors is a little less sensitive than direct procurement. The focus is more on efficiently meeting the organization’s internal needs rather than delivering a final product to external customers.

Impact On Industries

Direct Procurement

Direct procurement has a significant impact on industries like manufacturing, construction, and technology, especially when the availability of raw materials directly affects customer products. Supply chain disruptions or fluctuations in raw material prices can directly impact production and overall industry performance.

Indirect Procurement

Indirect procurement affects many industries but often has a more indirect impact than direct procurement. Industries like retail, healthcare, and professional services heavily rely on indirect procurement to support their operations, ensuring a smooth flow of non-core goods and services required for day-to-day functioning.

Performance Measurement

Direct Procurement

Direct procurement typically focuses on KPIs that measure the efficiency of a procurement process, such as cost per unit, on-time delivery rate, and order fulfillment time.

Indirect Procurement

Indirect procurement, on the other hand, focuses on KPIs that measure cost savings achieved through procurement, such as procurement spend under management, cost reduction, and cost avoidance.

Inventory Management

Direct Procurement

Inventory management for direct procurement involves acquiring important goods or services in the production process. These goods or services are called “direct inputs” since they are incorporated directly into the final product. That said, direct procurement teams typically have long-term strategies for managing inventory, ensuring quality, and keeping suppliers compliant with the organization’s specifications and standards.

Indirect Procurement

Indirect procurement, on the other hand, involves the acquisition of goods or services that are not essential to the production process. These goods or services are typically considered “indirect inputs” since they are not directly incorporated into the final product received by end users.

Supplier Relationship Management

Direct Procurement

Direct procurement teams have a more strategic approach to supplier relationship management (SRM) than indirect procurement teams because goods and services for direct procurement affect the end users directly. Thus, building solid relationships with suppliers is highly important to ensure a steady supply chain, drive quality, and improve efficiency in direct procurement.

Indirect Procurement

In indirect procurement, there is a more transactional approach to supplier relationship management (SRM) because goods and services are less critical to the organization’s success, as these do not directly affect the goods and services received by the end users. Thus, building long-term relationships with suppliers is also not that critical.

Organizational Setup

Direct Procurement

Direct procurement is usually managed by a centralized supply chain. This is to ensure procurement teams work within a specific budget.

The centralized procurement team typically has a strict budget. It is focused on specific areas of spend to help ensure that the organization only gets the best possible price for its needs.

Indirect Procurement

Indirect procurement, on the other hand, follows a more decentralized approach involving several internal stakeholders. Indirect Procurement usually encompasses smaller business segments that each have unique requirements.

The decentralized procurement process can be more efficient as it allows different departments more control over their spending. However, the decentralized procurement process can also be more difficult to manage, as it can be difficult to track spending.

Tips To Control Direct And Indirect Procurement

Tips to control direct and indirect procurement

Your organization can control your direct and indirect procurement costs in several ways. By following these tips, your organization can improve its efficiency and effectiveness and save money!

Here are some tips to help you:

Use Spend Data And Analytics

Spend data and analytics make it easier to understand trends and opportunities, helping you craft better management strategies. This is especially important for indirect procurement as costs here are more difficult to track.

Review Your Contracts Regularly

Reviewing contracts will help you identify savings opportunities and other restrictions that might be driving up your costs.

Work Closely With Your Finance Department

Always make sure to foster collaboration between your procurement and finance teams. When your financial goals and strategies are aligned, it becomes easier to enhance budgeting, financial reports, and cost management. Thus, leading to increased savings and better relationships with suppliers.

Leverage Technology

It is highly encouraged that you embrace technology by leveraging procurement technology solutions. This helps you streamline processes, automate routine tasks, enhance visibility, and even improve overall efficiency in your company. No doubt, e-procurement systems and spend management tools can help your company gain a competitive edge.

Educate Your Employees About The Best Practices For Procurement

Always empower your employees by training them with procurement best practices. Educating them about cost-saving measures, compliance requirements, and strategic sourcing techniques makes creating a more effective procurement program easier.

Set Clear Goals And Objectives For Your Procurement Program

Clearly define your goals and objectives for your procurement program. Align your objectives with your company’s overall strategy. This will help you drive focused and measurable outcomes, ensuring all your procurement activities align with your business priorities.

Monitor And Evaluate Your Procurement Process

Always monitor your procurement process. This will help you identify areas for improvement and may even open opportunities to streamline workflows and optimize resource allocation. Consistently schedule regular assessments to enable you to refine your business strategies.

Separate Strategies You Use For Direct And Indirect Procurement

Recognize the unique characteristics of direct procurement vs. indirect procurement. Doing this helps you develop separate strategies that are tailored fit for each. This makes it easier to address specific challenges and requirements of your spending categories.

Monitor Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Always track your KPI. This makes it easier for you to gauge the performance of your procurement activities. Don’t forget to monitor your metrics, such as cost savings, cycle time, and contract compliance, to ensure you stay on track with your goals.

Practice Sustainable Procurement And Responsible Sourcing

You are highly encouraged to embrace sustainable procurement practices and responsible sourcing. Always consider environmental and other social factors when collaborating with suppliers who promote ethical sourcing. Striving for sustainable supply chain management will allow your business to contribute to a better future for the world!

How Does Direct And Indirect Procurement Affect Your Spend Management Strategy?

spend management strategy

Your company’s direct and indirect procurement significantly impacts your company’s spending management strategy. Understanding the key difference between the two types of procurement is crucial for your company to manage your costs, inventory, and supplier relationships effectively.

In direct procurement, your company sources and purchases raw materials, components, and other physical products to produce the finished goods that reach your end users. This type of procurement often involves establishing good relationships with your key suppliers to ensure a steady supply chain and high-quality materials.

Indirect procurement, on the other hand, involves purchasing non-essential suppliers, professional services, and other goods that support your business’s day-to-day operations. Indirect procurement activities often require a different approach emphasizing supplier management relationships and cost reduction through strategic sourcing and vendor management.

Direct and indirect procurement distinctly impacts your company’s spending management strategy. Understanding the key differences between the two makes it easier to leverage technology for a more effective procurement process.

Related: Procurement Fraud: Understanding Its Impact On Company Evolution, Prevention, And Real-Life Examples

What Is The Impact Of Direct And Indirect Procurement On A Company’s Bottomline?

company's bottomline

Direct and indirect procurement significantly impacts your company’s bottom line, as both types of procurement affect the cost of the goods sold.

Efficient direct procurement can lower costs by sourcing materials from key suppliers at competitive prices. By minimizing costs, your company can increase its profit margins, making it more competitive.

While indirect procurement does not directly impact the cost of goods sold, it can still affect your company’s bottom line. By effectively managing indirect procurement activities, your company can ensure that it is not overspending on non-essential supplies or services, which can lead to unnecessary expenses and reduced profitability.

Is Procurement Solution A Worth It Investment?

procurement solutions

Procurement solutions can be a valuable investment for your business, especially if you want to streamline your purchasing process and optimize supplier relationships.

Here are some of the key benefits of investing in a procurement solution:

  • Streamline processes: By automating manual tasks such as purchase order generation and approval workflows, your company can significantly reduce its time and effort in completing procurement activities. Doing this improves internal efficiency and enables faster response times and a more streamlined supply chain.
  • Improve supplier relationships: Procurement automation can help you improve supplier relationships. With a procurement solution, your business can easily maintain a database of key suppliers, track performance metrics, and ensure compliance with contract and service level agreements. This enables your organization to build a strong and strategic relationship with your suppliers, resulting in improved collaboration, better pricing and terms, and a more reliable supply chain.
  • Enhance efficiency and effectiveness: Procurement software offers a range of key features that enable you to process automation, instant order generation, access to product catalogs, faster approvals, performance insights, and integration with accounting systems. By using these features, your organization can improve its speed and accuracy in terms of its procurement activities.

Related: ProcureDesk Vs. ProcurementExpress: How Do They Compare?


Is Indirect Procurement As Valuable As Direct Procurement?

Indirect procurement is just as important as direct procurement. Indirect spending can account for a significant portion of a company’s overall spending. Thus, it’s important to manage it effectively. Indirect procurement may include IT services, office supplies, travel expenses, and other marketing materials. These things are important in a company’s day-to-day operations, so getting the best possible value for them is important.

Why Is Indirect Spend Important?

Indirect spending is important as it can significantly impact your company’s bottom line. While difficult to track, they can add up over time. For example, your company spends $100,000 on indirect procurement each year; this alone can significantly impact your bottom line.

What Are The Challenges Of Indirect Procurement?

The challenges of indirect procurement may include the following:

  • Lack of visibility into spend: It can be difficult to track indirect spending, as it can be spread across multiple departments and suppliers.
  • Maverick spending: This is when employees make unauthorized purchases outside of the approved procurement process. This can lead to overspending and poor purchasing decisions.
  • Inadequate spend analytics: Indirect spend data is often not analyzed effectively, preventing companies from identifying opportunities to save money.
  • Lack of procurement KPIs: Procurement KPIs are metrics that measure the performance of the procurement function. Without KPIs, tracking progress and identifying improvement areas is difficult.

How Does Procurement Software Improve Indirect Buying Management?

Procurement software can improve indirect buying management in several ways, including:

  • Improved visibility into spend: Procurement software can help companies track all indirect spending, including spend by department, supplier, and category.
  • Reduced maverick spending: Procurement software can help companies implement policies and procedures to prevent maverick spending.
  • Improved spend analytics: Procurement software can help companies analyze spending data to identify saving opportunities.
  • Improved procurement KPIs: Procurement software can help companies track procurement KPIs to measure the performance of the procurement function.

The Role Of Technology In Direct And Indirect Procurement

procurement solutions

Undoubtedly, technology can play a crucial role in direct and indirect procurement leading to a transformed and enhanced procurement process. Here are some key contributions of technology in direct and indirect procurement:

  • Streamlining Procurement Processes: Technology enables automation and streamlining of procurement processes, including requisitioning, sourcing, supplier management, and purchase order management. This improves efficiency, reduces manual errors, and saves time.
  • Improved Visibility and Data Analytics: Technology provides real-time visibility into procurement data, allowing organizations to analyze spending patterns, track the performance of your suppliers, identify cost-saving opportunities, and make data-driven decisions.
  • Supplier Relationship Management: Technology platforms facilitate effective supplier relationship management by centralizing supplier information, facilitating communication, and tracking performance metrics. It enhances collaboration, enables better negotiations, and strengthens supplier partnerships.
  • E-Procurement and E-Sourcing: Electronic procurement and sourcing platforms enable organizations to conduct purchasing activities online, simplifying the procurement process, improving transparency, and reducing paperwork. It offers a centralized platform for supplier selection, contract management, and purchase order creation.
  • Cost Control and Savings: Technology helps control costs and achieve savings by automating invoice processing, enabling electronic payments, and identifying opportunities for consolidation and strategic sourcing. It enhances spend visibility, ensures compliance, and facilitates better negotiations for favorable terms and pricing.
  • Enhanced Collaboration and Communication: Technology platforms enable seamless collaboration and communication among stakeholders involved in procurement, including procurement teams, finance, suppliers, and internal departments. It promotes effective communication, reduces delays, and enhances decision-making.
  • Sustainable and Responsible Procurement: Technology can support sustainable and responsible procurement practices by providing tools to track and monitor supplier sustainability metrics, carbon footprint, ethical sourcing, and compliance with regulatory standards.
  • Risk Management: Technology solutions provide capabilities for risk assessment, monitoring the performance of your suppliers,  and supply chain resilience. It helps identify and mitigate risks related to supplier reliability, geopolitical factors, and disruptions.

Automating direct and indirect procurement processes becomes easier with the right software solutions. ProcureDesk can streamline your procurement process, making tracking your direct and indirect purchases easier. Curious how this works? See ProcureDesk in action today. Our team of experts is ready to show you how easy it can be to manage your procurement process!

Automating direct and indirect procurement processes becomes easier with the right software solutions. ProcureDesk can streamline your procurement process, making tracking your direct and indirect purchases easier. Curious how this works? See ProcureDesk in action today. Our team of experts is ready to show you how easy it can be to manage your procurement process!

The Bottomline

Understanding the differences between direct and indirect procurement is a good start if you want to manage your procurement process effectively.

By distinguishing these two types of purchasing, it becomes easier for your company to implement the right strategies to help you optimize your operations, control costs, and drive business success better.

Don’t be afraid to equip your business with the knowledge and tools you need to tackle your business like a seasoned procurement expert. As you embark on your procurement journey, remember that AP Automation systems can play a pivotal role in helping you streamline your operations, improve efficiency, and even boost your bottom line!

What you should do now

Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways we can help you scale your purchasing and Accounts payable process.

  1. Claim your Free Strategy Session. If you’d like to work with us to implement a process to control spending, and spend less time matching invoices, claim your Free Strategy Session. One of our process experts will understand your current purchasing situation and then suggest practical strategies to reduce the purchase order approval cycle.
  2. If you’d like to know the maturity of your purchasing process, download our purchasing process grader and identify exactly what you should be working on next to improve your purchasing and AP process.
  3. If you’d like to enhance your knowledge about the purchasing process, check out our blog or Resources section.
  4. If you know another professional who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, Linkedin, Twitter.