Day 10: Are H&K okay?

Today is our last site visit at Horauf and Kohler and it only reminds me that the program is soon coming to an end. The program has gone really fast and I’m excited for these last few days but also do not want it to end.

To begin our day we woke up bright and early to head straight to Horauf and Kohler, or H & K. Today was a pretty big day for me because it was also the first day that I finally woke up early enough to get breakfast which was very delicious as I had a chocolate croissant. I know that this isn’t really breakfast food but it was too good not to eat.

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Upon arriving at H&K we were asked to wait outside as apparently the only English-speaking worker at the company had gone on vacation, so we had to wait for a translator to arrive. Once our translator arrived we began the tour of the factory at H&K. The first thing I noticed about this factory was that it was much different than the others. H&K was smaller than the other companies we had previously visited and this was reflected in their factory size as the building was much smaller. The building also seemed to be much smaller probably because H&K was a molding company and they primarily focused on smaller objects, while the other companies we visited focused on either large items, like automobiles, robots, and parts made of carbon fiber.

The second thing I noticed during the tour was that nothing was being manufactured while we were there. At the other companies while we were there were always moving parts as things were constantly being made. While at H&K there was no sound and nothing being produced from what I saw. Eventually we got to a part of the company where we go to see parts being produced but I was surprised when I discovered that the part wasn’t even needed. The part was being produced by four elderly women and apparently was not longer profitable for H&K to produce. You may be wondering if it wasn’t profitable then why was H&K making this product? Well we wondered that too so we asked and learned that apparently H&K made an effort to keep all their workers employed throughout their life and the elderly women became skilled in only making that product so H&K kept producing that product the to keep the women employed.

Aside form the four women there was one other part of the factory where we go to see products being made and that was in the next room. In the next room we found that H&K also had a KUKA robot, like the other companies we visited did, but unlike the other companies H&K only had one KUKA robot, while the other companies had many. This was interesting to be but also made sense given that H&K was a small company.

After the factory tour we got to talk to the employee of the H&K company a bit more. During this conversation the employee implied that H&K was not doing so well as a company. He almost mentioned how all of H&K’s product eventually were sold to BMW, meaning that if BMW was to stop buying their products, H&K would have no customers. This information left me concerned for H&K but also left me thankful for the visit as it gave me the opportunity to see a smaller company located in Germany.

Once the H&K site visit was over my group, since we had finished our presentations, decided to use our free time to visit the local mall before going back to the hotel to practice our presentation.

Upon walking into the mall, I felt as if I was back in America, if you didn’t look at any of the store signs (which were in German) you would think that you were in the United States given that the mall looked exactly like the local Ross Park Mall in Pittsburgh. This effect often happened to me throughout the trip in Germany as Germany is a first world country and most of the residents speak English along with German so it is easy to forget that you are in a foreign country. When I first noticed that almost everyone spoke Germany while in Augsburg I asked one of the German students why this was and was surprised to learn that he was actually required to learn English in school since the second grade. This as interesting to me because in my school district there is no language requirement at all, although I did take Spanish. I also found it interesting because even when I took Spanish in school we mainly focused on the reading and writing aspects and never the speaking and listening, therefore preventing me from ever becoming fluent. This take on foreign language is very different from how it seems to be approached in Germany where from a young age they are required to take English and are therefore are almost as fluent in English as they are German.

Another thing that I found interesting inside the mall was that there was an entire rack of hats with American baseball, basketball, and football team logos on them. This was surprising to me as the German students mentioned that no one in Germany watches baseball and yet here they are selling the logo for baseball team on hats. This left me to make the assumption that American sports logos seem to be a fashion trend in Europe, and a pretty popular one given how many hats there are.

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After leaving the hat area and the mall altogether my group then headed back to the hotel where we separated into our rooms and practiced our presentations throughout the night. Before practicing I actually headed to the market where I grabbed a slice a pizza and an orange banana smoothie for dinner. What was interesting about the smoothie was that there was no ice in it, so it was thick like a smoothie but not cold, which I did no expect but still it tasted good. After eating my dinner I headed back to my hotel room where I practiced my presentation for about an hour before I headed to bed so that I would be well rested for my presentation the next day.

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