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I know to outsource is to subcontract work to another company. But for example if company A, a TV maker, wants to buy panels from a panel making company B instead of producing panels themselves, can we say:

Company A outsources panels from company B.

If not, how else can we put it?

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I would say that Company A sources its panels from Company B, or that Company B supplies panels to Company A. If Company A used to manufacture panels itself, then I would say that Company A has outsourced its panel manufacturing to Company B. –  choster May 4 '12 at 16:08
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Whatever you do, you do not outsource from. You outsource to. You cannot say, "we have outsourced our customer support from India". That's complete nonsense. –  RegDwigнt May 4 '12 at 16:39
    
@RegDwightΒВBẞ8: This. –  Robusto May 4 '12 at 16:41
    
@choster: you should make that an answer. IMO, source/sourced this is the typical business usage for acquiring materials for use in products. –  horatio May 4 '12 at 18:55

3 Answers 3

The OED's definition is 'To obtain (goods, a service, etc.) by contract from an outside source'. Panels are - are they not? - goods.

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The technical meaning of outsourcing is "obtaining services from other companies or individuals rather than employing full-time members of staff to provide them." (See BBC, Learning English, General & Business English [])

However, if we admit that panels are goods¹, strictly speaking, we could say "Company A outsources panels from company B" only if "A" can produce panel by itself; that is, "A" has the necessary know-how to produce panel, but choose to outsource because of the advantages it offers as compared to the traditional process of production. If not, we might say "Company A buys panels from company B".

¹ Oxford Dictionary of English | outsource: "obtain (goods or a service) by contract from an outside supplier."

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I think even if Company A does have the know-how to make the panels, buys is a better word. –  JLG May 4 '12 at 17:29

Generally, they are referred to as bought out items. There are contractual differences between outsourced services and bought out items.

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To me "bought out" means to buy the entire stock of something, not to buy it from outside the company. Choster's comment uses what I would use: "sourced items". –  Peter K. May 4 '12 at 16:21
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@Carlo_R Never edit while active exchange is on. That can jeopardize editing by original answerer/ commenting at the answer. I know you're well aware of it. –  Kris May 4 '12 at 16:59
    
I would say they were bought in. Bought out has several meanings, but not this. –  TimLymington May 19 '12 at 13:35
    
In all these weeks there was ample opportunity to google the term 'bought-out items' or otherwise do some research. Note: Without the word 'items' the phrase has an altogether different usage. –  Kris May 19 '12 at 17:09

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