Today, after I poured too much batter in the waffle press to make a waffle that tasted like a stroopwafel, we boarded the bus to Denklingen where the Hirschvogel headquarters are, with the German students in the Hirschvogel group. We passed lots of solar panels and yellow fields on the bus ride, and I talked to Maren about the scavenger hunt for a bit.
At Hirschvogel, we started by listening to a presentation about the company, the products they make, and their innovation management system. I liked their system in which any employee can suggest some type of innovation or change to be made in the company, and can be rewarded just for a legitimate suggestion, and further rewarded if their idea is successful. I think it’s a good way to make employees more invested in the company they work for than just coming to work to make money.
Next was the tour of the facilities, and though at times it was hard to hear what the tour guide was saying, even with ear protection and headphones tuned to his microphone, seeing the forging process was really interesting. I didn’t know much about forging before the company tour, all I imagined was a medieval blacksmith hitting hot metal on an anvil, but it’s a cool process. Steel rods of specific sizes are heated up to a particular temperature, then put into a die and the pressed with another die piece with huge force. Usually a part has to be forged in multiple steps, moving from one die to another to get more and more detailed.
We saw parts made by cold, warm, and hot forging depending on the detail of the part; some machines almost completely manual with people changing out the steel rods between steps, and some machines almost completely automated with robots moving the rods (and scrap metal in hot forging) throughout the process.
Some parts were ready to be sent to the customer once the parts were shot-blasted and tested for cracks. Others, like larger pinion pieces, had to be sent a few kilometers away to their machining facility to be finished. I was kind of disappointed that we didn’t get to see that facility since I know more about machining processes and would have liked to see what techniques are applied for mass production in person.
We ate lunch in the company dining hall, and I had spätzle and sausage with gravy and vegetables, and tried a lemon and grapefruit drink. I knew spätzle is a very German dish, and was glad I got to try it, and it was pretty tasty with the gravy. After lunch we all got back on the bus to Oberammergau, a little town near the Alps.
After we changed out of our business clothes, a few of us went to the first café we saw, and I got a regular coffee, which tasted great and warmed me up nicely for the cool weather outside. In the rest of our time in Oberammergau we walked around the small town, looking at the intricate decoration and ornament woodwork in the shops, a few of us buying some as souvenirs. The town was cute, and I couldn’t imagine how nice it would be to live somewhere so picturesque, with such a great view of the Alps out your window every day.
Next stop was the Laber Talstation, where we took a gondola to the top of a mountain with a great view of the Alps. I was in the third group up to the top, and I was really glad I brought my film camera, because the view was unbelievable. The view was so breathtaking, I was hard to comprehend that we were looking at the actual mountains, not just a picture or movie.
Apparently in past years it’s been so cloudy and foggy that you couldn’t see the mountains in the distance at all, but we were lucky enough that not only was the sky clear, but it had recently snowed, making the view even more scenic. We ended up staying at the top of the outlook until the man running the gondola told us he was closing up.
Back in Augsburg some of us decided to have some more German Italian food, and had dinner at Vapiano, which I later found out is a chain that can be found in US cities like DC and NYC. The salad was good, but I don’t think I’ll go back since I’d rather try food I can only get here in Germany.
After dinner a few of us just sat around and talked, getting to know each other better. Moments like these are part of the reason I decided to participate in a study abroad program, as I’m sure the friendships made on this trip will last a long time.
This sign is visible from the gondola in Oberammergau when it stops halfway up the peak, letting riders know the stop is routine and not due to malfunction of the gondola. I mostly liked it because I thought the translation was funny, but honestly, I kind of like the contrast of the bright yellow to the cool blues and greens of nature in the background.