Supply chain timeline: Procurement - ancient & modern tech

Procurement has come a long way since its origins in the building of Egypt's Pyramids to the Industry 4.0 technologies that underpin the function today

Procurement timeline: The scribes of Ancient Egypt

In the ancient world, scribes were people who copied documents. In Egypt, they were used to manage the supply of materials for building the great pyramids. Scribes recorded the volume of materials and workers requid to complete the task, tracking orders through to fulfilment.

Procurement timeline: Industrial Revolution 

The Industrial Revolution marks the dawn of procurement as a trade in itself, with the creation of the rail network being a driving force. One of the earliest acknowledgements of procurement as a function comes in 1832, in a book called ‘The Economy of Machinery and Manufacturers’, by noted mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer Charles Babbage.

Procurement timeline: World wars produce defence procurement

Successive world wars witnessed the creation of a parallel procurement process: defence procurement. Countries the world over rushed to source the raw materials, weapons, equipment, food and machinery necessary to fuel the war efforts of civilians and fighting forces.


Procurement timeline: 1960s - today's profession takes shape

Approaching the mid-1960s, the concept of ‘materials management’ took hold on a wider scale. The practice of competitive bidding became embedded, and this gave rise to trained procurement professionals who began to establish the function’s status within businesses.


Procurement timeline: 1980s -- rise of supplier management 

By the 1980s, procurement experienced an increase in supplier competition, allowing organisations to focus on supplier quality and dependability. Procurement as we know it today took shape, as supplier management and strategic sourcing became important factors.


Procurement timeline: Pandemic and digitalisation

Following the pandemic, procurement is now no longer seen as a cost-control centre, but a means for businesses to seek competitive advantage to defy supply disruption and keep products available. Modern-day procurement is driven by Industry 4.0 tech that offers end-to-end supply chain visibility.


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