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last updated: 29th July 2011

Here the term purchase order includes not only the traditional piece of paper sent out by post. It may be an order placed electronically using, for example, a supplier's, on-line, web-based shopping basket and paid for using an institutional procurement card or more automated using an e-procurement system. Remember also that a verbal order is binding, so placing an order over the telephone will result in a contract between the institution and the supplier. Warning

You will have access to many contracts set up by either your own Procurement Office, by the sector or via other formal pricing arrangementsFor more information on what arrangements are available, please consult your institution's Procurement Office web site.

What do you want to buy?
When the time comes to purchase the selected goods or services it will be necessary to communicate what is required to the selected supplier.  The supplier, product, price and other factors will have been determined via an appropriate process.  Depending on value, this could be from published price lists, a special agreed price list, a quotation or tender exercise.

The description on the purchase order should provide all the information to ensure that you receive the correct quantity of product, to the correct location at the correct time.  For example, what do you mean by 2 boxes – is it a box of 2 items or a box of 10 cartons of 10 items?  When using suppliers’ product codes make sure your write them accurately.  If you want a particular colour or configuration, make it clear on the order. 

The order is therefore a very important document and should be filled out in a clear and unambiguous way. Make the descriptions clear, stating pack sizes, colours etc.  Don't assume that just because you always get the blue folders the supplier will know and deliver the blue ones this time.  Likewise, the price quoted should be accurate. If it's an estimate, state this. Similarly, if the order is to call off, for example, stationery over a period of time, state the period covered and a maximum value.  When the stated value or end date is reached, the order should end and, if necessary, a new one created.

Remember the supplier is receiving lots of orders from many customers and will probably not be in position to recall particular requirements that you may have.

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