Period 4: The Quiet Years (1947–Mid-1960s)

The heightened awareness of purchasing that existed during World War II did not carry over to the postwar years. John A. Hill, a noted purchasing professional, commented about the state of purchasing during this period: “For many firms, purchases were simply an inescapable cost of doing business which no one could do much about. So far as the length and breadth of American industry is concerned, the purchasing function has not yet received in full measure the attention and emphasis it deserves.”

Another respected purchasing professional, Bruce D. Henderson, also commented about the state of affairs facing purchasing. In his words, “Procurement is regarded as a negative function—it can handicap the company if not done well but can make little positive contribution.”26 He noted that purchasing was a neglected function in most organizations because it was not important to mainstream problems. He went on to say that some executives found it hard to visualize a company becoming more successful than its competitors because of its superior procurement.

Articles began appearing during this period describing the practices of various companies using staff members to collect, analyze, and present data for purchasing decisions. Ford Motor Company was one of the first private organizations to establish a commodity research department to provide shortand long-term commodity information.27 Ford also created a purchase analysis department to give buyers assistance on product and price analysis.

The postwar period saw the development of the value analysis (VA) technique, pioneered by General Electric in 1947. GE’s approach concentrated on the evaluation of which materials or changes in specifications and design would reduce overall product costs. Although important internal purchasing developments occurred during this era, there is no denying that other disciplines such as marketing and finance overshadowed purchasing. The emphasis during the postwar years and throughout the 1960s was on satisfying consumer demand and the needs of a growing industrial market. Furthermore, firms faced stable competition and had access to abundant material—conditions that historically have diminished the overall importance of purchasing. The elements that would normally cause an increase in the importance of purchasing were not present during these quiet years of purchasing history.

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