A service provider with passion

The Purchasing Department at the HZI is headed by a strong woman: Anja Anfang. The business economist gives us an insight into her work.

Anja Anfang is a woman with a lot of energy. You notice this in her firm handshake and the way she is constantly on the move. This kind of momentum is necessary as head of a department with such a wide range of tasks as the Purchasing Department at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI). Her team processes around 22,000 requests each year; with a workload of this magnitude, the unit must function perfectly — and, according to Anja Anfang, her 14-strong team does exactly that. Without staff who have a passion for their jobs, this work would not be possible, she says.

She sees the Purchasing Department as a service provider for the HZI, with the scientists as her customers, and close collaboration with the specialist departments is very important to her. Without their expertise, for example when ordering large-scale equipment, the Purchasing Department would face real problems: “We’re not scientists, after all.” Anyone may request information on the cost of a specific product, whether they are a scientist or an administrative employee — ultimately, however, the Purchasing Department is always responsible for controlling the awarding process and ensuring compliance with statutory regulations. Ideally, the specific request is put out for tender, in order to find the most economical supplier. From an economic point of view, it is not always the cheapest price that counts, but rather the best supplier in terms of the required quality. The reason for this is to ensure the appropriate use of the taxpayers’ money that the HZI receives, says Anfang.

So that is her department, but who is Anja Anfang? A woman with a lot of energy — not only in her job, but also in her personal life. Even after spending long days in the office, she still finds time to be active after work: She regularly goes to the gym, enjoys spending time outdoors on her bicycle and, lately, also on skis. “I go skiing once a year, and each time I learn a little more,” she tells us.

Her willingness to try something new and constantly improve her skills is something that brought her to the HZI. In 2016, she changed industries and left her long-standing position with a power supplier to take up a new challenge at the HZI. Previously, she worked her way from the bottom up in procurement, holding her own in male-dominated fields such as vehicle fleets and tool purchasing. The Purchasing Department at the HZI fulfills the needs of the entire centre, from ballpoint pens and marketing services to highly complex scientific equipment and construction services. “It’s the major projects that are particularly interesting, such as the architectural competition for the new Helmholtz Institute for RNA -based Infection Research (HIRI) building in Würzburg,” says Anfang. The process took one and a half years from the idea to awarding the contract, and was carried out in close collaboration with a Berlin service provider, which brought new perspectives to her work.

She is also in close contact with the other 18 Helmholtz centres: The Purchasing managers from all the centres meet twice a year. “On a specialist group level, there are collaborative projects; for example, at the moment we’re procuring occupational safety software for six centres,” says Anfang. At the HZI, the Purchasing Department is closely connected to other units, such as Technical Services and the Finance Department. Staying well connected, both inside and outside the HZI, makes a big difference. “The Purchasing Department isn’t an island,” says Anja Anfang with a smile. On the contrary: She and her team represent one central department that exists to support everyone. A service provider with passion, indeed.

Author: Christine Bentz

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