Day 4: Continental

Today was the longest day of my study abroad experience so far, but I was too tired to ever slow down.

We left our hotel today at 8:00AM and took a two-hour bus ride to the city of Regensburg, which is a beautiful city in southern Germany.

We had a company visit with Continental’s facility in Regensburg in the afternoon, so we took a short city tour in the morning. Regensburg is a smaller city, but has some interesting history. The city is famous for its intricate cathedral and their bridge across the Danube river that is over 1000 years old. At the time of their construction, the architects of the cathedral and the bridge raced each other to see who would finish their project first.

As detailed as it is, the cathedral was completed before the bridge. Today, a sculpture of the bridge architect is in the middle of the bridge and is pictured looking at the top of the cathedral as if he is looking at the finished cathedral. I was able to go into the cathedral, and it was stunning. In Germany, cathedrals seem so common to each city’s history, regardless of the city’s size. In my city tour, I was able to walk around with two of the German students and talk to them more about their student experience here in Germany. I know I have said this in earlier blogs, but I really appreciate their help. They are always willing to help translate whether we are trying to order food or if we need help reading small information plaques about historic landmarks. The German students who came with us today have never been to Regensburg, so it was their first time exploring the town as well.

The Stone Bridge
St. Peter’s Cathedral

After the city tour, we took a quick bus ride to Continental and met one of their HR employees, Mark, for a short presentation on the company. Following the presentation, we had a brief question and answer session, but the employee was not fluent in English, so we had a hard time explaining questions and receiving answers. However, I sat with Mark for lunch and was able to talk to him a little bit about the United States. He has traveled to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Dallas with Continental, so it was cool hearing some of his Vegas stories. He is a passionate sports fan and went to a LA Clippers game and a Dallas Mavericks game. I told him that Mark Cuban was from Pittsburgh and attended the University of Pittsburgh, and he was surprised. It made me realize how connected people are when Mark told us he knew Mark Cuban. I asked him some questions about German sports and he said that American Football is gaining a little more popularity here; they just started a small American football club in Germany.

We returned to the meeting room in Continental’s visitor center and hear Dr. Thomas Gallner, who spoke about innovation at Continental. His presentation was similar to the innovation management presentation at Hirschvogel, but the two companies have slightly different perspectives on the future of the automobile industry. German companies have an “all-in” approach to more environmentally friendly cars, but Hirschovgel envisions a future not only with electric vehicles but with Hydrogen powered engines that use CO2 as a source of fuel. Hirschvogel has a unique perspective because they supply numerous parts for internal combustion engines (ICEs) so they would have to drastically re-design their company if the industry completely converted to electric automobiles. Comparatively, Continental believes the future of the auto industry is only going to be electric vehicles. Both companies believe industry Megatrends are extremely important. Both companies are investing in Autonomous vehicles, analyzing the ride-sharing industry, and more.  Continental is a much bigger company, and their tire industry is only a portion of what they focus on today.

We took a tour of their manufacturing line here in Regensburg, which is focused on electrical car components such as vehicle safety circuits and ignition systems. In total, they have over 7,700 employees and 544 locations worldwide, whereas Hirschvogel has about 3,000 employees and only 9 locations. Before we toured, we had to empty our pockets and put on shoe cover and lab coats that would dissipate any electrical charge that our bodies naturally carry. We needed to make sure we were electrically neutral, so we did not harm the robots or computers.

The facility was very clean, and they use robots in every portion of their manufacturing process. My favorite part was the electronic robots that carry parts, inventory, or finished products between manufacturing lines (they are called scooters). I wish I could have taken pictures. They are all around the facility and drive around the facility and are 100% autonomous. Continental has about 20 scooters that are active at one time but have about 40. They are extremely intelligent. For example, when an object is blocking its way in a pathway, it will try to maneuver around it. If not, it will stop and announce on a speak to clear the block way (since it is usually people that are in the way). If the object cannot be moved, the robot finds a new path and notifies all the other robots in the factory so that they all can avoid the blockade. A manager then receives a notification and checks the pathway to clear the path and then resets the robots with one click.

Continental’s Visitor Center

After our visit with Continental, we went back to Regensburg’s city center, and I went to a local German café and we had coffee and talked for an hour before dinner. We organized some more things to do again as a group before we left for home, so it was fun to bond with them.

Dinner was good, and I had Bockbierschnitzel, which was very tasty! German food is very heavy, but I am getting used to it. I have really enjoyed the German meals I have had.

Today, I really enjoyed spending more time with the German students, and I learned how to work through the language barrier situations we had during the first continental presentation. While Mark did not speak English fluently, our group was very adaptable, and we altered how we asked questions and asked the German students some different questions that they could talk about with Mark in German instead of English.

The days are really going too fast here, and I would not mind staying for another week. I already know I am going to miss Augsburg. But let’s not think about that right now! Next stop, Audi in Ingolstadt!

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