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Essential skills profile

This profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skills is generally performed by most workers in this occupation. The levels of complexity estimated for each task are ranked between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced).

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Purchasing and Inventory Clerks(1474)

Purchasing and inventory clerks process purchasing transactions and maintain inventories of materials, equipment and stock. They are employed by retail and wholesale establishments, manufacturing companies, government agencies and other establishments.

Reading Help - Reading
  • Read purchase orders to see specifications for materials ordered. (1)
  • Read memos and letters on policy changes, administrative details, and production concerns. (2)
  • Read material safety data sheets (MSDS) to learn about the storage of hazardous materials. (3)
  • Read product brochures and material test reports from suppliers to learn about new products and make purchasing decisions. (3)
  • Read trade magazines and manuals to keep up-to-date with changes in materials and purchasing processes. (3)
  • Read computer manuals to learn about new applications. (3)
  • Read technical manuals when new equipment has been purchased to understand its operation and capabilities. (3)
Document use Help - Document use
  • Consult the Yellow Pages and other listings of manufacturers and suppliers. (1)
  • Read merchandise sale signs and safety signs in the warehouse. (1)
  • Record write-offs and mark-downs of damaged or returned merchandise. (1)
  • Consult price tables for the cost of materials. (2)
  • Read stock lists and tables to determine the status of stock. (2)
  • Read production and delivery schedules. (2)
  • Verify requisition forms when new pieces of equipment or material are needed. (2)
  • Interpret customer sketches and scale drawings of items to be built. These drawings give details of parts and materials and fabrication specifications. (3)
  • May read assembly drawings to learn how equipment fits together. (3)
  • Fill out estimates for contracts. (3)
Writing Help - Writing
  • Write memos or e-mail messages to inform co-workers of decisions, merchandise processed, problems encountered or changes made to purchasing requirements. (1)
  • Write brief entries on requisition and purchase orders. (1)
  • Write letters to suppliers to find out which products they have in stock, to obtain information on products and to purchase supplies. (2)
  • Write letters to customers clarifying how products will be built and to request approval of the plans. The letters include price quotes and justifications for using particular materials. (3)
  • Write submissions to managers outlining the characteristics of certain products and presenting purchasing options. (3)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy Money Math
  • May receive payments from suppliers. (1)
  • Reduce prices of items by specified percentages when marking down damaged or returned goods. (2)
  • Calculate customer bills including taxes, delivery costs, product weights and discounts for volume purchases. (3)
Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math
  • Monitor the budget to ensure money is available to cover payments to suppliers, taking into account the amount of credit available to the company. (1)
  • Monitor inventory by ensuring that sufficient quantities of various items are available, based on average quantities required and the projected demand. (1)
  • Schedule when and how much raw material and supplies should be on hand, based on past amounts used, and information on upcoming requirements. (2)
  • Adjust established budgets and schedules to incorporate new information, such as delays caused by shortages in suppliers' stocks. (3)
Measurement and Calculation Math
  • Measure parts when they arrive to ensure they conform to desired specifications. (1)
  • Measure the dimensions and calculate the volume of objects to be stored and the weight of items to be shipped. (2)
  • Calculate the amount of material needed to produce custom orders. (2)
  • May calculate the area of various sections of the plant or office to know if machines will fit the available space. (2)
Data Analysis Math
  • Analyze data on the amount of scrap produced in the plant over a year in relation to the amount of money which was received upon sale of the scrap. (1)
  • Compare the prices of products and sales volumes over a period of time. (1)
  • Calculate the average amount of finished products produced per week, month or year. (2)
Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate by sight whether there are enough materials to continue the production of a particular order. (1)
  • Estimate how much material to order based on the number of products likely to be ordered, taking into account information about suppliers, prospective customers, prices, lead time to produce and volume discounts. (2)
  • May estimate the price of products based on the materials and labour involved. These estimates are made when giving quotes to customers. Some information may be unavailable, especially if products are new or contain new materials. (3)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication
  • Inform staff about items ordered and when they will arrive. (1)
  • Brief employees on the next shift on what work has been completed and what still needs to be done. (1)
  • Discuss tasks with co-workers and exchange information and opinions about prices, purchases, estimates, improvements to be made to work processes and the quality of products and equipment. (2)
  • May instruct other employees to complete inventory tasks. (2)
  • Interact with supervisors to confirm information on purchase orders, discuss reports, ask questions and request clarification on policy issues. (2)
  • Speak with clients and suppliers to clarify specifications for orders, enquire about product availability and negotiate prices for raw materials. (3)
  • May present information to staff, such as the results of research completed on a new machine to be purchased for the plant. (3)
Thinking Help - Thinking Problem Solving
  • May receive a product that was not ordered. They contact the supplier to explain the problem and ask for a credit note. (1)
  • May find that deliveries do not arrive on time. They reprioritize their processes and schedules and attempt to find replacement items. (2)
  • May be informed that the arrival of ordered products will be delayed. They may make alternative shipping arrangements so that the product will arrive on time. (2)
  • May find that invoices processed do not match inventory sent out. They search recent invoices for errors. (2)
  • May receive an urgent request for a large purchase at a time when supervisors are absent and unable to give their approval. They carefully judge the importance of the request and determine whether to go ahead with the order or place it on hold. (3)
Decision Making
  • Decide whether to place an item on back order. (1)
  • Decide whether to place an order by telephone or in written form. (1)
  • Decide when to have inventory shipped in, based on the cost, space and future demand for the product. (2)
  • Decide whether to give discounts to customers and whether to provide more expensive items in place of cheaper unavailable products. (2)
  • Decide which orders should go into production, based on whether required ingredients or components are in stock. (2)
  • Decide which suppliers to use, taking into account product quality, quantity, cost, delivery time, availability and the importance of maintaining good relationships with present suppliers. (3)
Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Purchasing and inventory clerks follow similar schedules every day. They fill out purchase orders, complete paperwork and check inventory. In conjunction with their supervisors, they set the order and priority of job tasks according to deadlines. Their job tasks are co-ordinated with the tasks of co-workers. Interruptions, such as telephone calls and urgent customer requests, are frequent, causing schedules to be readjusted. (2)

Significant Use of Memory
  • Remember measurements taken from products to verify them against scale drawings.
  • Remember stock numbers for regular items stored in the department.
  • Remember details of shipping procedures in order to prepare receiving departments for the arrival of raw materials.
  • May memorize client codes, part numbers and product prices.
Finding Information
  • Refer to lists to find out what items are available, on sale, discontinued, and temporarily unavailable. (1)
  • Search computer databases to find quantities in stock, parts numbers, pigment numbers and specifications for a product. (1)
  • Obtain information about products by speaking with co-workers, making phone calls and reading brochures and trade publications. (2)
  • Find information about suppliers in catalogues, supplier indexes and phone books. (2)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology
  • They may type letters, create schedules and input work orders on a computer. (2)
  • They refer to and update databases of stock items when completing inventory. (2)
  • They may track expenditures with an accounting program. (2)
  • They may send e-mail messages to co-workers and supervisors. (2)
  • They create spreadsheets of stock quantities. (3)
Additional information Help - Additional information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Purchasing and inventory clerks may work alone at times of low customer volume. They mostly work independently although they may work jointly with a partner or helper when completing large inventory tasks, unpacking and stocking items or producing lists of needed supplies. Purchasing and inventory clerks work as members of a team with other clerks, supervisors, manufacturing employees and sales staff, co-ordinating tasks in their area of responsibility so that procedures run efficiently.

Continuous Learning

Purchasing and inventory clerks have an ongoing need to learn. They update their knowledge of computer software regularly and receive training on company policies and procedures. They may attend purchasing seminars.

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