Today was my company tour day, and I am so lucky I will be presenting on Hirschvogel. Hirschvogel gave us a comprehensive presentation and tour and our group has so much information and data that we can work with. After about a 45-minute drive, we arrived at Hirschvogel Umformtechnik, their company headquarters, and met with Dr. Hans-Willi Raedt, Vice President and the Head of Advanced Engineering at Hirschvogel.
In the morning, Dr. Raedt presented on Hirschvogel’s idea management and talked about the business and engineering innovations at Hirschvogel. He was very fluent in English, but I also had to ask the German students in my group about different customs when people ask questions, or when a student approaches someone of prestigious credentials. Hirschvogel has just unveiled two new innovating platforms for their company: Hirschvogel iBox and Hirschvogel Tech Solutions. iBox is a general forum that anyone in the company can submit an idea to improve the company. It could be as small as adjusting the tool arrangement by the forging machines, to unveiling a new product. If someone’s award is used by upper management, they are awarded a monetary prize. I was curious about how successful iBox is, but Dr. Raedt dodged my question a little bit. In organizational behavior this year, we did a case study about the strengths and weaknesses of monetary rewards. We learned how money can only be a realistic award for simplistic tasks, but when management needs to encourage more idea generation, other awards methods should be enacted. Hirschvogel Tech Solutions is a new department that is in charge of creating new products for car companies. In prior years, Hirschvogel has simply been a manufacturer; a company calls them, gives them a part they need to produce, and then Hirschvogel enacts their designs. However, to remain competitive, they created their own design department where they will work their customers in a proactive approach and design products for them. I really liked their new department and believe it definitely is a necessary department to keep their company relevant in the minds of car companies as they continue to experiment in the electronic car market.
During the presentation, Dr. Raedt was very thorough during his overview of the company and Hirschvogel’s new idea and innovation policies, but he avoided a couple of questions that our team asked for our research. For example, one of the German students asked about how Brexit affects Hirschvogel, and Dr. Raedt did not give us a clear answer. Also, I asked about how the new tariffs on raw materials in the United States affects Hirschovgel and the European automotive industry, and he mainly just expressed his opinion about the tariffs. He did explain that most European car companies or supplier companies always use local steel and that the tariffs are deterring foreign customers from purchases steel in the United States.
We then took a factory tour which took about two hours. Hirschvogel is the only company of its kind that can complete hot, cold, and warm forging as well as aluminum forging. The Hirschvogel headquarters have every type of forging process besides aluminum, which is produced in a separate facility in Germany. Each machine in their factory costs about 5-10 million euros. Emerging companies have a high barrier to entry because of the price of forging equipment, and Hirschvogel is the only unique supplier that can complete all types of forging. However, their material yield from raw material to final products is only 85%. 15% of their raw material is scrapped, and Dr. Raedt did not give a clear response on the companies’ waste recycling policies. I wonder how much of their scrap material is re-used, and what policies they are enacting to reduce their carbon footprint.
We were not allowed to take pictures within the factory tour, so I mostly just have pictures that are on their company website.
We left Hirschvogel after we ate lunch at their cafeteria and we headed to a town called Oberammergau, which is a small town at the edge of the Alps. The town was very small, but it was too touristy for me. I did not feel like I was experiencing a small, German village because of all the souvenir shops. However, the highlight of the town was our gondola trip up the mountain range for a beautiful view of the Alps. Of course, I brought a terrible towel, so I was able to snag some pretty amazing pics for Steelers Nation back home. The view was very clear, and we were able to get a perfect glimpse of the Alps.