WARREN, MICH. - To bring the task of General Motors' buyers into perspective, think of a husband and wife with 20 children. The spouse who shops for groceries must be a devoted coupon-clipper. The family knows it will spend a fortune on food, but by buying only items for which they have coupons, they'll save more.
The key to GM's global purchasing strategy is volume buying. Instead of members of the GM family feeding themselves- shopping at different places for similar items at widely varying prices - the firm appointed one department, worldwide purchasing, to do the job for all.
Purchasing ferrets out products that serve the tastes and performance needs of as many GM units as possible, and goes to the supply world equivalent of the bulk food store, leveraging volume for a lower price.
Then it whips out the coupons - in this case, three to five rounds of bidding, followed by a little bargaining - to whittle the price even more. Sometimes, GM finds a store running a ``double coupon'' promotion.
This work takes months of preparation by GM buyers, who must learn nearly everything about the engineering, production, materials and performance of the product for which they are responsible.
``We have to do a better job of communicating the key role of the buyer, how empowered they are, and how much responsibility they have,'' said Warren Tur-ski, global sourcing manager. ``They're the first level of defense, reporting to the top levels of the organization.''