The following appeared in a report presented for discussion at a meeting of the directors of a company that manufactures parts for heavy machinery:

“The falling revenues that the company is experiencing coincide with delays in manufacturing. These delays, in turn, are due in large part to poor planning in purchasing metals. Consider further that the manager of the department that handles purchasing of raw materials has an excellent background in general business, psychology, and sociology, but knows little about the properties of metals. The company should, therefore, move the purchasing manager to the sales department and bring in a scientist from the research division to be manager of the purchasing department.”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.

The director’s statement, though self-serving, contains an element of truth. Purchasing managers are, after all, charged with acquiring the materials needed to manufacture goods. However, a cursory glance at any industrial complex will reveal that purchasing departments do not simply order whatever materials they need. They frequently utilize advanced statistical methods to forecast future demands, and they use various techniques to determine the relative value of competing materials. In addition, purchasing managers often work closely with research and development engineers to determine which materials provide the best combination of cost, performance, and other attributes. These techniques, along with detailed studies of materials properties, form an integral part of the company’s research and development function, which, in turn, forms the basis of the company’s long-term strategic planning. This reliance on research, in turn, contributes to the delays experienced by the company’s purchasing department.

The purchasing manager’s lack of expertise in materials science is not a sufficient cause for the problems the department is experiencing. The purchasing manager, for example, maybe working with outdated materials specifications. This, in turn, will result in purchasing the wrong materials or purchasing materials that are inferior in quality. In addition, the purchasing manager may be ordering materials that are not suitable for use in their manufacturing processes. A purchasing manager may, for example, contain steel or aluminum for use in products that are designed to be heated to high temperatures, but the company’s facilities do not have the capacity for such heating. The purchasing manager and, by extension, the company may only find out when it is too late to perform the necessary redesign.

Finally, the purchasing manager may have access to better pricing on materials than is available to the rest of the company. The purchasing manager, for example, may order materials in bulk from vendors with whom the company has long-term contracts. This, in turn, results in discounts that the company may not be able to obtain elsewhere. However, the purchasing manager’s access to better pricing is subject to limitations imposed by budgetary and time constraints.

The director’s conclusion that purchasing managers should be moved to sales departments is flawed for two reasons. First, the purchasing manager’s lack of expertise in materials science is not the main reason for the purchasing department’s problems. Second, moving a purchasing manager to sales would be a waste of the company’s resources. The purchasing department’s problems originate, at least in part, from the fact that the company’s purchasing department lacks adequate resources to perform its responsibilities adequately. The purchasing manager is, therefore, the best person to address the problem. Moving her to a position that does not require her in-depth knowledge about materials science would be counterproductive.

In conclusion, the purchasing department’s problems stem, in part, from the fact that the department lacks sufficient resources. The purchasing manager, however, is better equipped to address the issue than she is. Therefore, the company should retain her in the purchasing department, and the director’s suggestion to move her to a position in sales is a bad idea.