Today started out strong with a very interesting visit to Hirschvogel, a company that makes supplies for car companies. They gave us a lecture on their innovation management processes and how they develop an atmosphere where employees are not afraid to bring new ideas to the table. In fact, they even implemented a suggestion system where an employee can submit a suggestion, and if approved they will get 10 euros. If their idea is implemented into an action process, then they will receive a percentage of the profits that results from the innovation. This was very interesting to me because I remember reading about how Toyota implemented a similar system around 2006. They gave each employee who would come up with an idea around $20. This led to an influx of low quality ideas that were being submitted just to receive the $20. As a result, Toyota ended this system and reverted back to the other suggestion technique. This topic was very interesting to me because it aligns well with what I want to do in the future. Continuous improvement, or Kaizen techniques, is a large part of what industrial engineers do, especially when focusing on lean manufacturing. Today, we were able to receive a good lecture about how Hirschvogel implements lean in the processes.
Next, we toured the factory and all of the systems that they had in place. It was amazing to see the massive machines that they had which worked on a variety of parts. Some parts of the factory were older than others and the conditions through each section differed dramatically. I found it amazing that they are able to conduct all these different processes and keep track of what is happening where and how to optimize it all. The tour guide discussed a lot about how they designed the layout and are constantly moving things to make it the most effective that they can. Today was a really good day for me since I was able to bask in all of the industrial engineering talk.
After the Hirschvogel visit, we went to Oberammergau, a town south of Augsburg, near the Alps. The town has a very nice quaint feeling to it, but it was a little touristy for me. However, my favorite part was not the town itself. We took a gondola up the mountain and saw one of the most breath-taking views that I have ever seen. I mean there is nothing like this anywhere else. Check out some of these pictures below, it really is amazing. My phone camera cannot do it justice so I highly recommend that if you ever find yourself in Bavaria, you should go up here and spend some time just looking out.
To end the day, I got dinner at an Irish pub along with some other students. We all got burgers and really enjoyed them. It’s different from America, but I truly enjoy the culture here in Germany so far.