What Is the Difference Between Direct and Indirect Sourcing?

In procurement, two distinct approaches exist: direct purchasing and indirect purchasing. In terms of their theories, processes, and what they offer in terms of products or services, their methodologies may vary. Besides, the balance between direct sourcing and indirect sourcing is also another imperative aspect for the organization to be well optimized in procurement and bring more values.

To make a purchase is the main role of the procurement department of the company responsible for the purchase of all goods and services that will be used in the company’s operations. This article focuses on direct vs indirect sourcing in detail, and brings out the differences, benefits and their applications.

  • Direct Sourcing: A Straightforward Method

The direct sourcing method is the one employed by the company to provide the goods, components, and services that go into the production or provision of its main products or services. Therefore, in this regard, the procurement team will be in contact with suppliers and manufacturers to obtain required products. Direct sourcing is the procurement methodology in which the company buys raw materials, parts, components or a ready-made product to be used in the production as the input for the final product or a service.

Direct sourcing is the main focus of the strategy to provide constant and cheap supply of critical materials and components. This is via the establishment of continuous long-term strategic relationships with the trusted suppliers, the bargaining of favourable terms and conditions and the constant product quality control. To companies operating in industries where the availability of raw materials and components is limited and the quality of the latter could have a high impact on the performance of the final product and customer satisfaction, direct sourcing is especially important.

  • Indirect Sourcing: Enabling Business Functions

However, indirect sourcing is the process of buying the products and services that the organization consumes to support its operations but does not become a part of the final product. This means the offices can buy services and goods directly in order to satisfy their needs, like purchasing office supplies, information technology equipment, maintenance services, expertise services, and facility management services.

Indirect sourcing is the act of purchasing these services and supplies in a way that will lower the prices and improve the company’s performance in the market. Organizations generally utilize procurement automation tools and strategic sourcing methods for identifying and engaging the suppliers who are capable of bargaining for the best contracts and who can manage the indirect purchases in an effective manner throughout the life cycle of the purchases.

  • Striking a Balance: The Significance of Integrated Purchasing

While both direct and indirect sourcing model aim to achieve distinct objectives, most organizations seem to realize the advantage of adapting an integrated sourcing approach. The integration and collaboration of direct and indirect sourcing efforts guarantees the companies greater visibility, control, and cost-savings throughout their entire procurement network.

The ability to integrate sourcing strategies helps organizations leverage their aggregate buying power, negotiate better prices with suppliers, and streamline processes via centralized sourcing functions. In addition to improving operational efficiency, this holistic approach also allows the enterprise to develop data-driven decision-making, risk management, and supplier relationship management processes, which are common across all industries.

  • The Role of Procurement Automation Tools

Procurement automation tools have become an essential part of businesses, which have a fast pace of growth, therefore, these tools play a vital role in the sourcing processes, either direct or indirect. These digital solutions enhance procurement efficiency by removing the complexities from the various processes, thus reducing mistakes and providing a greater perspective of the company’s spending.

Procurement automation tools encompass several functionalities which basically include supplier management, contract lifecycle management, spend analysis, and e-sourcing. By these resources, organizations will be able to improve the methods of their sourcing, and find ways to save money while working collaboratively with suppliers, which will result in the creation of more value.

  • Supply Chain Risk Mitigation

The issue of direct and indirect sourcing is also a matter of great importance in the context of supply chain risk management. Raw materials or components that are critical for the company’s production are procured directly (direct sourcing). This connects with the operation continuity. The inadequate supply of these direct materials can lead to stoppages in manufacturing processes, and the consequences can be very serious for the organization.

As a result of this, companies usually use strategies such as supplier diversification, contingency planning, and inventory management when they prefer direct sourcing. Through stocking up on several approved suppliers, keeping track of geopolitical and environmental factors, and having the right amount of stock, companies are able to guard against supply chain disruptions and maintain business continuity.

  • Supplier relationship management

Special supplier relationship management (SRM) is the key element of both direct and indirect procurement strategies. On the other hand, the nature of these relationships may be the same among the sourcing approaches.

  • Sustainability and social responsibility

The sustainability and corporate social responsibility are the important issues for business. So, both indirect and direct sourcing strategies are more significant for the implementation of such initiatives. Companies can choose to form partnerships with the suppliers who are dedicated to ethical and environmental standards in direct sourcing and this in turn promotes responsible sourcing and has a low environmental footprint.


The distinction between direct and indirect procurement is based on whether the goods or services being procured are directly or indirectly influencing the organization’s main business. The direct sourcing is meant to gain raw materials or components that have to be made directly, and the indirect sourcing is concerned with the purchase of other unrelated goods and services that are used in the operations.

The detailed knowledge of the particular needs and barriers of the individual sourcing options is a must for the companies that aspire to strengthen their supply chains. By adopting a strategic and integrated approach to sourcing, implementing procurement automation tools, and building mutual relationships with suppliers, businesses can open vast opportunities, cut costs and stay competitive in their particular market.