Skip to main content
businesswomen or accountant using writing a notebook

Understanding Direct and Indirect Spend and Why It Matters

In sound business operations, understanding how, where, and why money is being spent is vital. This knowledge forms the basis for strategic decision-making, influences cost control, and affects overall business performance. This article explores the concepts of direct and indirect spend, their impact on business, the difference between them, and more. Let’s delve deeper into the essence of spend and its key components in business operations.

What Is Spend? And What Role Does It Play in Business Operations?

Spend refers to the money a business allocates to procure goods and services necessary for operations, including both operating and capital expenditures. Managing spend plays a central role in business operations, encompassing costs for raw materials, inventory, supplies, equipment, utilities, services, salaries, facilities, and overhead. Monitoring and optimizing spend enables organizations to control costs, maximize value, forecast budgets, identify savings opportunities, and negotiate better supplier contracts. Overall, understanding spend patterns and taking steps to optimize expenditures allows businesses to operate more efficiently and gain a competitive advantage.

The Impact of Spend Management on Cost Control

Spend management is the process of tracking, analyzing, and controlling operational expenditures. It provides visibility into where money is being allocated and helps identify opportunities to reduce costs.

Effective spend management and analysis allow businesses to consolidate suppliers and leverage higher volumes to negotiate discounted pricing. This leads to lower procurement costs overall. Analyzing expenditures can help eliminate maverick spending outside of preferred suppliers. Enhanced budget accuracy and reduced invoice discrepancies also lower procurement costs and improve margins.

Ongoing spend analysis enables continuous monitoring and helps ensure cost reduction targets are met. It also supports data-driven decision-making regarding make vs. buy choices, inventory levels, contract terms, and other factors that impact the bottom line.

Role of Spend Analysis in Strategic Decision-Making

Spend analysis involves collecting, cleansing, classifying, and analyzing expenditure data. It provides actionable insights to inform strategic decisions and improve financial performance.
Analyzing spend data allows businesses to identify the largest areas of expenditure, detect inefficient purchasing practices, consolidate suppliers, negotiate from a stronger position, and make informed sourcing choices.

The insights gained support strategies around supplier relationship management, inventory optimization, budget planning, and cost reduction. They also aid long-term decision-making regarding supply chain design, make vs. buy trade-offs, geographic expansion, and launching new product lines or services.

What Is Direct Spend?

Direct spend refers to purchases of goods or services directly tied to producing a company’s products or services. It includes raw materials, components, packaging, equipment, inventory, and other items that go directly into a final product.

Direct spend is managed by procurement teams who focus on sourcing, procuring, and optimizing the costs of items that directly impact core business activities. The management of direct spend has a tangible effect on profit margins and the bottom line.

Examples of Direct Spend in a Business

Here are some common examples of direct spend:

  • Raw materials like wood for furniture, steel for auto parts, cotton for apparel, chemicals for pharmaceuticals, grains and hops for beer, cocoa for chocolate, etc.
  • Ingredient components that go into food and beverage products
  • Electronic parts purchased to manufacture computers, phones, or other devices
  • Packaging materials like bottles, cans, boxes, bags, labels, and wrapping
  • Machinery, equipment, and tools used in production and assembly
  • Inventory and other direct materials consumed in manufacturing

How Does Direct Spend Influence Business Activities?

Direct spend has a significant influence on business activities in the following ways:

  • It impacts the cost and availability of materials for production. This affects output levels, lead times, and the ability to meet customer demand.
  • It determines profit margins on finished products. Lower direct spend translates to higher per-unit profits.
  • It influences decisions regarding make vs. buy, plant locations, sourcing strategies, and supplier relationships.
  • Managing direct spend facilitates volume discount negotiations and helps ensure stable supply channels.
  • Analysis of direct spend data aids forecasting, budgeting, and targeted cost reduction efforts.

What Is Indirect Spend?

Indirect spend refers to operating expenses not directly tied to producing a product or service. It sustains overall business operations rather than core processes. This includes facilities, utilities, IT, travel, marketing, HR, consulting, and more.

Indirect spend is managed by several departments across an organization. It can be more complex to control but also offers opportunities to significantly reduce overhead costs.

Examples of Indirect Spend in a Business

Typical examples of indirect spend include:

  • Office supplies like paper, pens, computers, and furniture
  • Facility costs, including rent, utilities, maintenance, and cleaning
  • Business services such as marketing, accounting, IT, consulting, legal, and employee training
  • Insurance, subscriptions, dues, fees, and logistics expenses
  • Software, internet, phone, and other technology services
  • Fleet, distribution, and additional logistics expenses

Effective spend management can significantly impact your procurement operations. Learn more about how Velocity’s experts can support your spend management strategy.

Explore Spend Management

The Impact of Indirect Spend on Business Operations

While not directly tied to end products, indirect spend impacts business operations in the following key ways:

  • It represents a significant portion of operating costs for many companies.
  • Reducing indirect spend has a direct impact on profitability.
  • Inefficient indirect spend can result in financial waste and lost cost savings.
  • Managing indirect spend involves cross-departmental coordination to optimize overhead.
  • Analyzing indirect spend helps identify savings in operating expenses and non-core services.
  • Controlling indirect spend improves budgets, cost allocation, and overall efficiency.

Direct vs. Indirect Procurement Spend: The Similarities and Differences

Direct and indirect spend are the two primary forms of business procurement. While they have some overlap, there are also key differences between the two categories. Both involve purchasing goods and services needed to run business operations. However, direct spend refers to purchases directly tied to making the products or services a company sells. Indirect spend covers overhead costs needed to support operations.

Some similarities between direct and indirect spend include:

  • Both involve purchasing goods and services from external suppliers
  • Require developing relationships with key suppliers
  • Involve procurement, negotiation, contract management, and other buying processes

Key differences include:

  • Direct spend is directly tied to making the final product or delivering core services. Indirect spend covers overhead costs.
  • Direct spend has a more obvious impact on bottom-line profit margins. The impact of indirect spending is less visible.
  • Direct spend procurement focuses on a limited number of strategic suppliers. Indirect has a larger supplier base.

Streamline Your Spend Management With Velocity Procurement

Managing direct and indirect spend across complex supply chains presents many challenges for companies today. Disjointed processes and data make gaining comprehensive visibility and control difficult, and this fragmentation leads to inefficiencies and lost savings opportunities.
Avoid these challenges and more with a dependable procurement partner like Velocity.

Reach out to our team today, and let’s streamline your spend management strategy.

direct spend, direct vs indirect procurement, indirect spend, what is direct spend