If some good came out of the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, it might have been that the purchasing function in corporate America came to the forefront.

That belief is held by Donald W. Dobler, a independent purchasing and materials management consultant, who said in the last two decades the purchasing field has gradually evolved to the same business discipline level as marketing and accounting.Dobler, who once taught at Utah State University in addition to several other universities, said there always has been a need for a company purchasing agent, but suddenly there was a need to provide them with professional training and education.

In Salt Lake City to address a meeting of the Purchasing Management Association of Utah in the Tri-Arc Hotel, Dobler also conducted a two-day seminar in an attempt to help get purchasing agents ready to take the certified purchasing manager examination.

Regarding trends in purchasing, Dobler said there is more emphasis being placed on the quality level in purchasing goods and services, which is mainly the offshoot of foreign competition that stimulated American businesses to do a better job.

Purchasing agents also are responsible for better utilization of a company's resources, including reorganizing how the manufacturing is done and how people could be better utilized. Connected with this is the pressure to figure out how to acquire, store and handle items in a more cost-effective manner.

A third trend is to develop a better relationship between a buyer and seller and reduce the number of companies from which you are buying. This will allow the buyer and seller to get better acquainted with each other's operations and that will being efficiency to the company, Dobler said.

Until 15 years ago, the National Association of Purchasing Management was a trade association, Dobler said, but then the emphasis was changed to provide training and certification of purchasing agents. In 1975 the certified purchasing manager program was started that includes passing an examination, plus education and practical experience.

Dobler is dean emeritus of the College of Business at Colorado State University and last year received the J. Shipman Award from the National Association of Purchasing Management, the organization's highest award.