Purchases are a necessary component of running any business, no matter the size. But how do companies control who can make purchases, what those individuals are permitted to purchase, and when those purchases would need to be approved by someone else in the company? Setting up purchase approval routing in NetSuite allows companies to control all these essential details.

Setup for Purchase Approval Routing

The first step in purchase approval routing is to enable three key features in NetSuite: Purchase Orders, Purchase Requests, and Approval Routing. The Purchase Orders feature is located under the Transactions subtab of Enable Features, while Purchase Requests and Approval Routing are both located under the Employees subtab of Enable Features.

Purchase Requests

Before we jump into the weeds of purchase approval routing, let’s get a big picture overview of purchase requests in general, including both what they are as well as what they are not.

What They Are

Purchase requests are transaction records for any purchases that would require approval before the purchase order can be created. A purchase request record contains all the relevant details about the pending purchase, including the item that would be purchased, the expected cost, and the vendor.

A single purchase request can include multiple items, but it cannot include multiple vendors. This restriction is reasonable considering that purchase requests will naturally convert into purchase orders. After all, you wouldn’t send the same purchase order to multiple vendors!

What They Are Not

If you are familiar with NetSuite’s terminology surrounding purchases, then you probably have encountered requisitions. We won’t discuss requisitions in detail, but it is helpful to understand the difference between a requisition and a purchase request. Essentially, a requisition is just the way that an average employee can bring any purchasing needs to the attention of your purchasing department. Then, based on the items/costs in the requisition, purchase orders or purchase requests would be created as needed.

A requisition shares some characteristics with a purchase request, such as including specific items and the costs of those items, but a requisition can’t be converted into a purchase order like a purchase request can. Also, a requisition may include items that would eventually need to be purchased from multiple vendors.

Standard Approval Process for Purchase Requests

So, what is the standard approval process that purchase requests go through on their path to becoming purchase orders? Let’s look at the key steps that make up this process.

Who Can Create a Purchase Request?

Who can create a purchase request in the first place?  Employees who have access to the Employee Center can create purchase requests. These employees may also have access to other centers through other roles that their jobs require, but when they need to create new purchase requests, they would log in to the Employee Center role. Administrators can give employees access to this center by navigating to the employees’ records, selecting the Access subtab, and adding the Employee Center role to their list of roles.

When Are Approvals Required?

Second, you would need to determine when approvals are required. After all, if a purchase doesn’t need to be approved, then you would just create a purchase order—not a purchase request! For example, if the office needs to restock on paper, someone could probably just create a purchase order for it. But if a new employee needs a computer monitor, then that would probably need to be approved.

How do you know for sure when an approval is required or when a purchase order can be created directly? It actually depends on each individual employee. On each employee record, the administrator would set that individual’s purchase limit. The purchase limit is the maximum amount that an employee can spend without getting approval for the order. For example, a receptionist at an office may have a purchase limit of $100 and would be free to create purchase orders up to that amount. Any purchase that exceeds $100, however, would need to start as a purchase request and go through the approval routing process.

Who Can Approve a Purchase Request?

Depending on the size of your company, the hierarchy of purchase approvers may be either simple or complex. Employees who are purchase approvers would have designated purchase approval limits, which are the maximum amounts they are authorized to approve. If the amount on the purchase request exceeds an approver’s limit, then the request would be bumped up to the next purchase approver, until it gets to someone who is authorized to approve that amount. Administrators designate the approval limits that approvers are permitted on their employee records.

Supervisors are the default purchase approvers for any purchase requests made by employees they supervise. If another individual needs to be the first approver in the approval process for that employee, however, then that information would be detailed on the employee’s record and the supervisor would no longer be part of the approval routing process for that employee.

How are Purchase Requests Approved?

When designated approvers need to approve purchase requests, how do they do that? First, they would log in to the Employee Center. In the Employee Center, they would select Approve Purchase Requests, choose the specific employee whose request they want to approve, and select the box next to the specific purchase request. Once the approver has saved the page, that purchase request has been approved and will automatically convert to a purchase order.


Purchase approval routing ensures that companies can adequately manage all the purchases made within the company. If this post helped you understand NetSuite better, be sure to subscribe to our mailing list below to receive future posts directly in your inbox once a week!