It has officially been one week since the Plus 3 program started! It feels like so long ago, but I can’t believe that the trip is almost halfway over. Today was a short workday with the program. We started the day early by taking the bus to see SGL, the carbon company. I’ll admit, I had low expectations for this company tour. When learning about the company from the introductory presentations I found out that they have had a negative profit margin for the last few years, and seemed to be struggling in deciding what to focus their company on. However, the company visit exceeded my expectations. Traditionally, SGL has made massive graphite electrodes for the smelting of steel, as well as other graphite products. But last year SGL stopped production of their graphite electrodes in order to pursue a more forward thinking product: carbon fiber. They believe that carbon fiber is the material of the future, as it will become increasingly necessary to make cars out of carbon fiber in order to reduce weight, and therefore increase efficiency, without decreasing the durability and strength of the vehicle. However, carbon fiber is extremely expensive so the company is doing a lot of research and development to try to get product and process costs down.
During the lecture, we were able to hear about the company, the uses of carbon fiber, and the company’s business plan looking forward. Then, during the tour, we got to see the research and development plant where they do tests to try and reduce costs and increase efficiency. We also got to see the Lightweight and Application Center (LAC), where SGL helps their customers to use their carbon fiber in the most effective way, and even makes a few products for them in addition to just selling the fiber. I thought that the LAC was an interesting and innovative idea to get more customers to buy from them and trust them.
After the visit at SGL, we returned to the University of Augsburg for a talk from BMW. I was especially interested in this lecture, as I am assigned to the BMW team. Rather than just talk about the company in general, which might have gotten boring considering the famousness of BMW, the talk was focused on BMW’s vision for their autonomous cars. It was interesting to hear about the research and development that went into their plan for building and marketing the cars. What stuck with me most was their dedication to maintaining the reputation of BMW by making sure that when you got in one of their cars, you trusted that it would be a safe and reliable ride. The talk definitely gave me a new perspective into BMW and its future, and I am really excited to learn more about the company and its innovations at the tour on Monday!