Today was finally the day that we visited Hörauf & Kohler, my group’s company. We took a short streetcar ride to the company headquarters in Augsburg, only to hear that the employee that speaks English and was supposed to give our tour was actually on vacation. We made it work, though, as an employee from the University of Augsburg came to be a translator for our fill in tour guide. Our group also luckily prepared all of our questions in advance, so we could quickly take notes. The German students in our group were also willing to step up and ask a lot of questions in German to make things easier for everyone.
Although our visit was initially strange with the language barrier, I was able to learn a lot from our visit. We learned about the products H&K make through their main process of injection molding. Though they used to make their own molds, they now get them from other countries such as China. They also completely outsourced R&D. H&K first tests their plastic pellets to ensure their material is of top quality, and then make a sample product they can test with 3D scanning. Once the sample is to the customer’s liking, they can fully produce the product. Each final product is tested as well to ensure strength. Not only do they use injection molding, but they also use a different process to make air dampers, which are used in the glove compartment of cars. It was interesting to hear that they keep up production of air dampers despite economic inefficiency, so that they can still employ their long term, dedicated employees. This strong sense of corporate social responsibility may stem from the fact that H&K is part of the German Mittlestand, or small and medium sized enterprises, which we learned about prior to our trip to Germany. This does, however, pose some potential threats for H&K in the future, as these companies are struggling. In addition, they almost completely rely on BMW, which could also end up being a problem. For now, though, the company is happy with where they are.
After our visit, my group went directly to the University to work on our project. Our friend Benedikt took us there in his car, and we discussed how it is much more common for cars to be manual in Germany than in the US, where many vehicles are automatic. Benedikt also told us of a great döner place for us to visit once we got a significant portion of our project out of the way. Jess, Alan, Grant, and I headed his advice and were not disappointed! We also stopped at the gelato place Jess had been dying to go to. We finished off the night with shopping around Augsburg, and even got to see some sort of Israeli festival happening in the street. Tomorrow we will put the final touches on our presentation and share everything we have learned today and previously about H&K.