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An empirical taxonomy of purchasing functions

Paul D. Cousins (Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Benn Lawson (School of Management and Economics, The Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK)
Brian Squire (Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 1 July 2006




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the different patterns of purchasing function configuration, and the relationship between such patterns and organisational performance.


Despite considerable attention, there is little evidence showing the current situation toward the development of purchasing functions within organisations. Through quantitative data collected from 151 UK purchasing executives, cluster analysis is used to uncover and characterize four purchasing function configurations.


Four configurations, termed strategic, capable, celebrity, and undeveloped, were identified according to the characteristics they possess. Significant differences in supplier‐ and organisational‐related performance outcomes were found across these four purchasing function configurations. Purchasing skills were also shown to be a precondition for purchasing to exert influence within the organisation.

Research limitations/implications

A cross‐sectional survey provides limited longitudinal insight into the evolution of purchasing functions. Future research could examine how firms move between purchasing configurations. This study does, however, improve understanding of the different types of purchasing functions, their performance outcomes, and makes recommendations for potential strategies to be adopted for purchasing function improvement.

Practical implications

The findings are useful for practitioners seeking to improve the performance and standing of the purchasing function through identification of the characteristics and potential limitations faced at each phase.


This paper is one of few studies to provide an empirical test of purchasing function configuration, and the implications for organisational performance.



Cousins, P.D., Lawson, B. and Squire, B. (2006), "An empirical taxonomy of purchasing functions", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 26 No. 7, pp. 775-794.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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