Direct materials are typically classified as raw materials, standard or specialized parts, and sub-assemblies required to manufacture a product. As a result, direct goods and services are typically classified as those goods and services that are strategically important to the organization. For example, for a CPG it is the goods it sells, for a Pharmaceutical it is the chemicals and biological materials it uses for research and drug production, and for a Bank it is the systems and market intelligence feeds it uses to run.
Indirect goods are those goods and services that are not strategically important to the organization. For example, for a CPG it is back office systems, for a Pharmaceutical it is office suppliers, and a and for a Bank it is office supplies.
However, these back office systems for the CPG are strategic for a software and services reseller. Office supplies are strategic for the office supplies vendor and janitorial services are strategic for the janitorial services provider.
But it’s not just the type of organization that determines whether a good is direct or indirect, it’s the organization’s place in the supply chain. What’s direct at one level is indirect at the next. And knowing where you are in the chain not only lets you know how to approach the category but how your supplier approaches the category. And, more importantly, where in the chain the most savings can be obtained.