Day 9: SGL
Finally, our last company visit!
I have really enjoyed the company visits, but I am ready to take a breather from them.
Today, SGL was extremely generous with our group, and we opened the visit with a company presentation by one of Dr. Feick’s connections, Mr. Tilo Hauke. Mr. Hauke studied abroad at the Katz Graduate School of Business and had Dr. Feick as one of his professors. That was definitely the fun fact of the day!
SGL is a carbon fiber company but is looking to expand in the electric vehicle market for emerging opportunities. Recently, SGL has unveiled special carbon fiber components and insulation for electric vehicle batteries. SGL excels in the specific steps in carbon fiber manufacturing, for example, intercalation. SGL primarily works with the car industry, but have other departments for solar and semiconductors, battery and energy storage, and the chemical industry. SGL is constantly testing for different variations of carbon fiber for different applications in their laboratories.
The company originally started as an energy company and had divisions in aluminum, steel, and carbon fiber. When the steel industry became overcrowded, SGL sold their raw materials and energy divisions and are only focused on carbon fiber.
SGL’s biggest competitors are Torrey and Mitsubishi. While their competitors also produce quality carbon fiber, they have the majority stake in the carbon ceramic brake field.
I asked Mr. Hauke about some challenges you are facing in your new markets and how they are gaining larger market shares in those new locations. Mr. Hauke explained that they have a 30% market share in China, but only a 10-12% production share in China. One of their future goals is to expand their production in to be more competitive in the Asian market. Mr. Hauke explained that China is a very price-driven culture more so than other countries, so they have had governmental challenges with technology ownership. The government wants to use SGL’s carbon technology so they can make it themselves, so SGL has had to fight for their intellectual property rights.
SGL is the only other company that agreed with Hirschvogel’s opinion of fuel cell (hydrogen) vehicles. SGL believes that electric vehicles will not be the entire market share because of their long re-fueling time and their shorter ranges. SGL believes that electric vehicles will be the dominant vehicle right now because companies cannot afford to build the infrastructure around both electric and fuel cell vehicles at the same time. SGL believes fuel cell batteries are in our future, but only after we can develop a stronger electric vehicle infrastructure.
We took a small factory tour of SGL and were able to see an experimenting process. SGL will produce test stands of carbon fiber before they mass produce their products. The machine was cool, and it basically took strands of carbon fiber and pressed them together in different ovens to create carbon fiber.
After SGL, we went to the University of Augsburg to meet our group and go over our company presentation. We worked for a couple hours and divided up the work in our group so we could work on our own and meet again to run through the presentation. We did a lot of planning, which is definitely a culture difference between American and German students. For one German student in our group, it was their first presentation ever. In Germany, collegiate classes are determined on one exam at the end of the semester. Personally, that is too much pressure to handle, but the German students in our group would prefer one exam than multiple different grading criteria that we have to fulfill in America.
Tomorrow we are climbing the highest church tower in the world! I’ll be writing again after walking up a 766 step spiral staircase!