What is Purchase Order Life Cycle

The purchase order life cycle refers to the various stages involved in the procurement process from the initial request for goods or services to the final payment and closure of the purchase order. While the specific steps may vary depending on the organization and industry, the general purchase order life cycle typically includes the following stages.

What is Purchase Order Life Cycle
  • Purchase Requisition: The process begins when an individual or department within an organization identifies a need for certain goods or services and creates a purchase requisition. This document outlines the details of the request, such as the item description, quantity, and desired delivery date.
  • Purchase Order Creation: Once the purchase requisition is approved, a purchase order is created. The purchase order includes specific information about the requested items, including the supplier’s details, agreed-upon price, terms and conditions, delivery instructions, and any other relevant information.
  • Order Review and Approval: The purchase order is then reviewed by the appropriate personnel, such as the procurement team or a designated manager, to ensure accuracy, compliance with organizational policies, and availability of funds. If everything is in order, the purchase order is approved for further processing.
  • Order Transmission: The approved purchase order is sent to the selected supplier either electronically or through a physical copy. The supplier receives the purchase order and acknowledges its receipt.
  • Order Fulfillment: The supplier processes the purchase order by assembling the requested items, preparing them for delivery, and ensuring they meet the specified requirements. This stage involves activities like manufacturing, packaging, quality control, and inventory management.
  • Shipment and Delivery: The supplier arranges for the shipment or delivery of the goods to the designated delivery location as specified in the purchase order. The delivery process may involve coordination between the supplier, logistics providers, and the buyer’s receiving department.
  • Goods Receipt and Inspection: Upon receiving the goods, the buyer’s receiving department inspects the items to verify their quantity, quality, and compliance with the purchase order specifications. Any discrepancies or damages are documented and communicated to the supplier for resolution.
  • Invoice Processing: After the goods are accepted, the supplier sends an invoice to the buyer for payment. The invoice typically includes details such as the purchase order number, itemized charges, payment terms, and supplier’s banking information.
  • Invoice Approval and Payment: The buyer reviews the invoice to ensure accuracy and matches it with the purchase order and goods receipt. Once verified and approved, the buyer initiates the payment process according to the agreed-upon payment terms. This may involve issuing a check, initiating an electronic payment, or using a procurement system for automated payments.
  • Purchase Order Closure: After the payment is made, the purchase order is considered closed. The procurement records are updated, and any remaining administrative tasks, such as archiving documents and reconciling financial records, are completed.


Q: What is the purpose of a purchase order?

Ans: A purchase order serves as a formal document issued by a buyer to a vendor, indicating the intention to purchase goods or services. It outlines the details of the requested items, quantities, prices, delivery dates, terms, and conditions.

Q: Can a purchase order be modified or canceled?

Ans: Yes, a purchase order can be modified or canceled, but it typically requires communication and agreement between the buyer and the vendor. Changes or cancellations should be communicated promptly to avoid any misunderstandings or unnecessary costs.

Q: How long does a purchase order typically take to get approved?

Ans: The time for purchase order approval can vary depending on the organization’s internal processes, the complexity of the purchase, and the approval hierarchy. It can range from a few hours to several days, depending on the circumstances.

Q: What happens if the vendor cannot fulfill the purchase order?

Ans: If the vendor cannot fulfill the purchase order due to various reasons such as stock unavailability or capacity constraints, they should communicate this to the buyer as soon as possible. The buyer may then explore alternatives, negotiate with the vendor for a solution, or cancel the order and seek another supplier.

Q: How are purchase orders tracked?

Ans: Purchase orders are typically tracked using procurement or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. These systems help monitor the status of each purchase order, including its creation, approval, fulfillment, and payment. Additionally, manual tracking methods such as spreadsheets or document management systems can also be used.

Q: What is the difference between a purchase order and an invoice?

Ans: A purchase order is a document issued by the buyer to the vendor, indicating the intent to purchase goods or services. An invoice, on the other hand, is a document provided by the vendor to the buyer, requesting payment for the goods or services delivered. The invoice usually references the purchase order number.

Q: Can a purchase order be used for services, or is it only for physical goods?

Ans: Purchase orders can be used for both physical goods and services. When requesting services, the purchase order would outline the details of the services required, such as the scope of work, milestones, deliverables, and payment terms.

Q: How long should purchase order records be kept?

Ans: The retention period for purchase order records can vary depending on legal and regulatory requirements, as well as internal company policies. It is common for organizations to retain purchase order records for a certain number of years for auditing, accounting, and reference purposes.

Q: What is the difference between a purchase order and a purchase requisition?

Ans: A purchase requisition is a request made by a department or individual within an organization to procure goods or services. It serves as an internal document to initiate the purchasing process. Once approved, a purchase requisition is converted into a purchase order, which is the formal document sent to the vendor to proceed with the purchase.

Q: Are electronic or digital signatures accepted on purchase orders?

Ans: Yes, electronic or digital signatures are commonly accepted on purchase orders, especially when using electronic procurement systems or online platforms. These signatures help verify and authenticate the approval or acceptance of the purchase order by the concerned parties.

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