Bayerishe Motoren Werke!

(5/11/22) For the second day in a row, the group left Augsburg and ventured to Munich to visit two companies: Webasto and BMW. Packed days call for early wake-up times, so after hitting the alarm at 6 AM, I quickly ate the delightful breakfast, realized I forgot my shoes on the bus yesterday (don’t worry, I got them back), and hopped on a different bus headed to Munich.

First, we arrived at Webasto, a company that designs and manufactures sunroofs, heating and cooling systems, and chargers for electric cars. During our visit, we listened to a presentation on the different types of car chargers they offer and attended a tour that demonstrated how their sunroofs are manufactured and tested. Before the presentation, Webasto offered us beverages and Bavarian-style pretzels, which are cut like hot dog buns and have butter in between the two halves. This was my first time having a Bavarian pretzel, and I must say that they are worth the hype. As for the presentation, it was very informative and taught me where Webasto lies within the automotive supply chain. They are Tier 1 suppliers and provide automotive companies with the opportunity of customizing their products. On the engineering side, I more so enjoyed learning how the sunroofs are tested than how they are manufactured. The Webasto professionals showed us specific rooms where the roofs are tested to determine their quality and if they withhold that quality throughout certain conditions. The roofs are repeatedly shaken up and down and side to side to test durability and placed in rooms with sound-reducing walls to test if they made any noise. The latter room was by far the most fascinating, as I was able to talk into the walls and someone standing two feet behind me wouldn’t be able to hear. To determine if they maintain their quality, the roofs are tested through simulations of extremely hot and cold temperatures and rainy conditions. Overall, Webasto is a fascinating company that will definitely experience a lot of future success with the rise in popularity of electric vehicles.

The Olympic Tower of Munich from the BMW Museum

For the latter half of the day in Munich, we visited the massive headquarters of the company I am analyzing in my final presentation: BMW. With the first sight of the impressive headquarters, you can tell that BMW comes to play and doesn’t sit around. The most captivating buildings are the administrative office tower that consists of four cylindrical sections, the circular museum with the BMW logo on its roof, and the modern and oddly shaped event venue. To begin one of my favorite experiences of the trip, we were given a tour of the Munich factory. Our tour guide was fantastic, knew a seemingly infinite amount information on every step in the manufacturing process, and answered every question in great detail. As for the factory itself, I don’t even know were to begin. Every single step is an extremely efficient process that incorporates a harmonious combination of human workers and robots. Even more impressive, BMW set up the process so that the four different types of cars can be manufactured in the same assembly line in any position and the production time for one car takes only 40 hours. I was wonderstruck the most by the welding process and how anywhere from 4 to 12 robots will work on the same car in the same short (maybe half a minute) time period. While the tour was one of the coolest things I have ever experienced, I was definitely overwhelmed and got the chance to decompress on the museum tour. During this hour, I learned of the fascinating history of BMW and saw antique past models up close and in person. After the tour, we attended a Q&A session during which I got to ask questions that analyze the current state of the company related to political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental factors. Such topics of my questions included the Russian-Ukrainian war and how it has affected production and the steps that the company is taking to reduce its environmental footprint and become more “circular” (which means using only renewable materials). As I work on my final presentation in the next few days, I hope that the information I gathered will help me analyze the company’s current and future states. Overall, I was very captivated and impressed with BMW, and this tour was one of the best I have experienced.

The BMW headquarters
The 1955 BMW Isetta

On our way back to Augsburg, to relax after one of the longest days we have had, a group of us made plans to hang out with our German friends later that night. I stopped talking with my friends for a second when I realized that the sky was clear enough that the Alps were just barely visible from the Autobahn. I then had a thought that I have been having that has consistently summed up this trip: “Wow, this place is marvelous.”

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