Day 3: First Site Visits and 1972 Olympics

Once again I woke up early to prepare for what would be out first Site visit. I didn’t know what to expect of the site visit but nevertheless was excited to get to see first hand an environment that an engineer could be working in. After rushing down stairs and missing breakfast, as I had woken up early but failed to actually get out of bed till thirty minutes later, we boarded a bus that would take us to SGL for our first site visit of the day and of the trip.

At SGL we first got a brief introduction where we learned how they were a carbon company and that they specialized in making various parts from carbon along with carbon fibers. After the introduction we got to take a tour where we got to hold some of the products SGL makes and I was very surprised when I picked up a carbon composite bat and it was very light, but this later made sense after tour guide explained on of the benefits of making things of carbon was its high tensile strength but light weight. Then after getting to see the different parts and objects made of carbon we got to see the factory where they create carbon fibers.

The factory was not what I expected, as for some reason I thought they would be more workers, but instead was just a large room with a large machine inside create the fibers. We got to actually touch a strand of carbon fiber that SGL makes and I was surprised to find it to be similar to a strand of hair but unlike hair when you tried to break it, which many people tried to do, you couldn’t. I learned this was because carbon was very strong and therefore it was stranded together in fibers to make it even stronger, thus durable and great to use when making things that you want to last. Another interesting thing I noticed on the tour was that there was a KUKA robot being used in SGL to help create their product and I thought this was pretty cool as KUKA was one of the companies that we will later be visiting. I also noticed that safety seemed to be taken seriously in Germany, or at least in SGL, like it was in America as the KUKA robot was inside a cage to ensure that if anything went awry a part would come flinging towards a passerby.

With the SGL visit now over we took a photo and then headed towards Munich where we would be having our second company visit at BMW. Once arriving at BMW World we got to go inside and visit the museum where we saw a lot of different cars produced throughout the years. I made sure to take a lot of photos as a lot of the cars were very beautiful.

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Inside the museum I also found a display that talked about a BMW car that was then painted by Andy Warhol, called the Art Car. I found this display to be very cool as Andy Warhol was from Pittsburgh and it was interesting to see something that related to home even though I was over four thousand miles away. Another thing I found interesting inside BMW world was how every display poster had a description written in both German and English. This was very helpful as it allowed me to understand what I was reading.

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After visiting the museum, we had a little bit of free time so a group of us headed across the street to a park which is actually where the 1972 Olympic Games took place. It was cool to be able to see the types of areas that Olympic games take pace in and also to see where history takes place. Later on I would learn thanks to Stephen that the 1972 Olympic Games were famous because it was during those games that the Munich Massacre took place.

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When we noticed that it was getting later the group of us that walked to the park then began to head back to prepare for the BMW Tour. Going into the tour I had high hopes for this tour and it was probably the one I was most excited for as I was very interested in seeing how such an intricate piece of a car was made from the beginning and after seeing the tour I can say that I was not disappointed. Similar to SGL it was interesting to see how most of the production was completed by robots, some which were by KUKA (which once again was interesting to see), although most were ABB robots but had the same design as a robot by KUKA. Another interesting part of the tour to me was how the whole BMW factory seemed to one giant assembly line, with each part being put onto a conveyor belt and continuing on until it was a fully furnished automobile. This was very interesting to me as for ENGR 0012 at Pitt I had to write a research paper on a topic of choice and for my paper I chose to focus on mass customization and assembly lines. Given that for the past semester I had done extensive research on assembly lines, Henry Ford (creator of the assembly line), and the Model T being created on the first assembly line, it was very helpful to be able to see firsthand how something worked which I had only previously been able to read about online. Getting to see the assembly line first hand also showed me how efficient and safe it really was, given that piece was constantly on a conveyor belt so there was no lost time transporting them as being on the belt allowed the pieces to be worked on as they moved along, and by being on the belt it got rid of the need for people to have to move these objects themselves, thus reducing the safety risk. All in all to describe the process of BMW’s manufacturing, as Jess had said during the tour, it looked like the scene in Monsters Inc. where Sully and Mike are holding on to one of the doors and you see that all of the doctors are connected on one track being transported around. The BMW factory looked pretty much like that scene except instead of doors, there were automobile parts.

After getting the tour of the factory we then headed home after another very long day. I was unable to fall asleep on the bus but am very excited to fall asleep in the hotel room, and am also very excited for another long but fun day tomorrow!

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