April 7, 2016  

Purdue Profiles: Rob Underwood

Rob Underwood

Rob Underwood, strategic sourcing specialist with Procurement Services. (Purdue University photo/Rebecca Wilcox)
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Purdue has some of the most advanced technology in the world on the West Lafayette campus. Acquiring much of that equipment falls on Rob Underwood, strategic sourcing specialist for the University.

Underwood graduated from Purdue with a bachelor's degree in restaurant, hotel, institutional and tourism management. He returned to the University after working for Subaru of Indiana Automotive for several years.

What do you do as a strategic sourcing specialist?

I primarily analyze spending data and lead the project teams for large purchases and strategic sourcing projects in information technology. Per Purdue policy, all purchases over $10,000 are competitively bid out to make sure we are getting the best deal for the University. I manage those competitive bids and work closely with the other buyers on our team to ensure we are meeting the needs of staff and faculty for their purchases. We are in the process of hiring a new purchasing agent to assist me, but right now I am the one-stop shop for all IT in Procurement Services.

What effect does your work have on the University?

Given the University's dedication to affordability and world-changing research through Purdue Moves, it’s more important than ever for the University to save money wherever we can. Our IT equipment requirements as a university do not decrease year to year. In fact, they usually increase. So, we need to get the best products at the lowest prices to make sure we are meeting our fiscal goals. Because we manage this process, faculty and staff can dedicate their time to their work and not have to worry if they are getting the right equipment at the right price.

Why did you become interested in this field?

I worked at Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) prior to working at Purdue. I had worked in the materials and shipping department for about five years as an expediter and decided I wanted a change. I’ve always enjoyed building relationships with customers and suppliers, and in purchasing that is one of the most important skills to have. I spoke with some friends in SIA purchasing and they encouraged me to apply to an open position. I ended up working in purchasing as a buyer for three years before this opportunity at Purdue arose. I enjoyed my work at Subaru, but thought it would be fun to come back and work for Purdue as an alumnus.

What is the best part of your job?

Each day is different from the last, so there is a lot of variety. I can go from negotiating shipping terms with a supplier in the morning to meeting with departments on campus discussing a multimillion-dollar purchase in the afternoon. Every day there are any number of small or large projects to manage and keep on deadline. It is never boring. I cannot say enough good things about the rest of my team here in Procurement Services. They are some of the most dedicated and professional people I have ever worked with. We are a small department relative to the number of projects and orders that flow through us. The reason we can get everything done is because of the high skill set and dedication of our team.

Writer: Megan Huckaby, 765-496-1325, mhuckaby@purdue.edu 

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