"To auction, or not to auction,

that is the question."

Are Online Auctions specifically about forcing down prices?
No. The use of an Online Auction in no way impacts upon buyer’s policy to award contracts on the basis of the most economically advantageous tender. 
An Online Auction does offer the buyer the opportunity to arrive either at or close to the true market price in an efficient and transparent way, but does not encourage
suppliers to submit bids at unsustainable levels.

How are non-price factors such as quality of service accounted?
All factors that would affect a supplier’s cost such as quality requirements, service expectations, payment terms, lead times, delivery requirements, etc. are included in the Request for Quotation. 
Tactica works with the Buyer to create a
Total Cost RFQ, which is distributed to the high-quality suppliers that the Buyer
selects. Following the bidding event, the Buyer makes award decisions and is
not obligated to award to the low-bidding supplier.

Is this what the Buyers should spend their time doing?

This concern, or a similar one, may be expressed by Materials Managers or Plant Managers, to whom the Buyers report. One view of Purchasing work is to get the orders placed, with whomever the engineer/maintenance supervisor/office manager thinks is the best source. And, also do the expediting. The notion of Strategic Sourcing, or commodity plans or contracting may appear to be inappropriate, unrelated and different from what those managers have always viewed the work of Purchasing to be. The opportunity is to give the Buyers the tools that will help them move into the areas of strategic sourcing, and assist the Plant Managers in meeting their objectives by making suppliers responsive to them. This work would supplement, not replace, the important work of keeping the plant running.

Reduce cost, control risk, and make sure the savings are fully realised.