Types of Purchase Orders


Purchase orders play a crucial role in business transactions. They are formal documents issued by a buyer to a seller, outlining the details of a purchase agreement. Purchase orders ensure that both parties are on the same page regarding the products or services being bought, their quantity, price, and delivery terms. In this article, we will dive into the different types of purchase orders, their unique characteristics, and when they are commonly used.

Standard Purchase Orders

Standard purchase orders, also known as regular purchase orders, are the most common type used in business transactions. These purchase orders include all the necessary information, such as product or service description, quantity, unit price, and delivery terms. Standard purchase orders are typically used for one-time purchases or simple recurring purchases with consistent terms.

Blanket Purchase Orders

Blanket purchase orders are best suited for long-term relationships with suppliers or vendors. With a blanket purchase order, a buyer sets specific terms, such as quantity, price, and delivery, for an agreed-upon period, often six months to a year. This type of purchase order helps streamline the ordering process by eliminating the need for multiple purchase orders and invoices.

Contract Purchase Orders

Contract purchase orders are used for large-scale or complex projects that require extensive planning and customized agreements. These purchase orders involve a contract outlining the responsibilities, deliverables, terms, and conditions of the project. Contract purchase orders are common in industries such as construction, manufacturing, and software development.

Scheduled Purchase Orders

Scheduled purchase orders are primarily used when a buyer requires regular deliveries of the same product within a specified timeframe. These purchase orders include a schedule indicating specific delivery dates and quantities. Scheduled purchase orders are commonly found in industries like manufacturing, where a constant supply of raw materials or components is vital for production.

Emergency Purchase Orders

Emergency purchase orders are used when an urgent requirement arises unexpectedly. These purchase orders allow businesses to quickly obtain goods or services to address critical situations or unforeseen events. Emergency purchase orders often have expedited delivery terms and are typically used in industries like healthcare, where immediate access to medical supplies is vital.

Drop Ship Purchase Orders

Drop ship purchase orders are unique because the purchased goods are delivered directly from the supplier to the customer without passing through the buyer’s inventory. This type of purchase order is commonly used in e-commerce businesses, where inventory management is streamlined, and shipping costs are reduced. Drop ship purchase orders often require additional communication between the buyer, supplier, and customer to ensure smooth processing and delivery.

Consignment Purchase Orders

Consignment purchase orders are primarily used for retailers. With this type of purchase order, the inventory is placed in the retailer’s store, but the ownership remains with the supplier until the products are sold. The retailer earns a commission on each sale while mitigating the risk of holding excess inventory. Consignment purchase orders are beneficial for both suppliers looking to expand their market presence and retailers wanting to offer a wider variety of products without financial risk.

Contract Release Orders

Contract release orders are used when a buyer has a long-term agreement or contract with a supplier but needs to order specific quantities periodically. Instead of issuing a new purchase order for each release, contract release orders outline the terms and conditions agreed upon in the main contract. This type of purchase order simplifies the ordering process by eliminating the need for constant negotiations.

VMI Purchase Orders

Vendor-managed inventory (VMI) purchase orders are a collaborative approach where the supplier manages the inventory of the buyer. The supplier monitors stock levels, forecasts demand, and ensures the products are available when needed. Using VMI purchase orders, the buyer transfers the responsibility for inventory management to the supplier, making it suitable for businesses looking to reduce costs and streamline their supply chain.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Purchase Orders

Electronic data interchange (EDI) purchase orders involve the electronic exchange of purchasing data between the buyer and the seller. EDI purchase orders streamline the ordering process by automating the transfer and processing of information. This type of purchase order is popular among businesses with well-established supply chain systems, allowing them to save time and resources on manual data entry and verification.

Consolidated Purchase Orders

Consolidated purchase orders are used to combine multiple purchase requests from different departments or individuals into a single purchase order. This practice ensures efficiency by reducing paperwork, shipping costs, and duplicate purchases. Consolidated purchase orders are commonly employed in organizations with multiple departments to centralize the purchasing process and maintain better control over expenses.

Standing Purchase Orders

Standing purchase orders, also known as open purchase orders, are used when a buyer requires recurring purchases of the same product or service over an extended period. These purchase orders remain open until the buyer cancels or modifies them. Standing purchase orders simplify the ordering process by allowing businesses to quickly reorder without creating new purchase orders each time.

Strategic Purchase Orders

Strategic purchase orders are used to establish long-term relationships with suppliers while ensuring preferred pricing, quality, and timely delivery. These purchase orders are commonly seen in industries where collaboration and trust between the buyer and supplier are crucial for success. Strategic purchase orders help optimize the supply chain, minimize costs, and enhance competitiveness.


Purchase orders are essential tools in business transactions, ensuring clear communication and understanding between buyers and sellers. Understanding the different types of purchase orders, such as standard, blanket, contract, scheduled, emergency, drop ship, consignment, contract release, VMI, EDI, consolidated, standing, and strategic purchase orders, allows businesses to optimize their ordering processes and establish efficient supply chains.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are purchase orders legally binding documents?

A: Yes, purchase orders are legally binding when accepted by the seller.

Q: Can I change or cancel a purchase order?

A: It depends on the terms and conditions agreed upon with the seller. Some purchase orders allow modifications or cancellations, while others may have restrictive policies.

Q: Why are purchase orders important?

A: Purchase orders provide a clear record of transaction details, protect both parties’ interests, facilitate inventory management, and ensure timely and accurate deliveries.

Q: Can purchase orders be used in all industries?

A: Yes, purchase orders are widely used across industries, from manufacturing and construction to healthcare and retail.

Q: How can I automate the creation and management of purchase orders?

A: Many software solutions, ERP systems, and procurement platforms offer automation features for creating, processing, and tracking purchase orders, streamlining the entire procurement process.


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