The Krauss Khronicles Tag 4: The Bavarian Homeowner’s Association

Today I enjoyed another delicious breakfast unlike anything available at U.S hotels, and continued to take a refreshing nap on the way to our first company visit: Hoerbiger. 

The CEO of the facility we visited briefly explained the products Hoerbiger produced at that location, which included piezoelectric chips that work as control valves, as well as a much large device which would cut off a pipeline if there was a leakage. 

After we talked with the CEO, I split up into a smaller group and toured the company’s office space, which was unexpectedly my favorite part of that facility. 

We first saw these huge wooden boxes that housed a table and two chairs. Employees could sit in these soundproof “think tanks” with a colleague or by themselves to chat or just blow off steam. 

Our tour guide explained that the work space ceilings used a brutalist architecture to remind their employees what the company was producing. Each desk could be electronically raised as a standing desk to prevent employees’ back problems. A workout room was being built, so employees could exercise and shower before or after work. Each floor was identical so that employees could move between floors and easily work with each other. Every detail about the office spaces at Hoerbiger were so meticulously planned with the purpose of maximizing their employees’ effectiveness. 

We next toured two of the Hoerbiger factories, the first of which showed the massive devices that cut off a pipeline, if there is a leakage. These devices could detect a change in pressure, and cut off a pipeline in milliseconds. We briefly saw these devices laid out in tables, as well as large springs which were about as tall as I was, and could withstand many kilojoules of force. For these parts of the factory we had to wear strap on steel toes, which made everyone look like clowns. 

At the next factory area, we saw how to piezoelectric control valves were made. I thought it was interesting that Hoerbiger benefited from this product during the pandemic, as the device can be used for control valves in medical devices. For the first (and not last) time that day, we listened to a quiet German gentlemen explain how the devices worked, while the loud machines boomed behind him. 

Our tour guide explained that the piezoelectric chips themselves took only about 15 seconds to be produced, but other machines were used to stress these devices to make sure they are up to a certain standard. This process takes about 21 days in total. I really wanted to take a picture of the machines making the piezoelectric chips, as well as the think tanks in Hoerbiger’s offices, but Hoerbiger had a strict no photo policy. 

We next drove to a much larger Hoerbiger factory which produced gears used for hydraulic breaking systems. After once again wearing the clown shoes, an employee walked us through the process of how the gears were created, and showed us the various stages of production. Hoerbiger has no problem selling these gears, as it is a very niche part that is still present in most gas cars. Their supply chain will be hurt with the rise of electric vehicles, which use electric brakes instead of hydraulics. 

As for the second half of our day, we took a trip to the rural town of Obergammau and its neighboring mountain range. I noticed that all the houses in this area had red rooves, and asked around on the bus why this was so. Jerry was like “It’s because of the Homeowner’s Association,” and I fully believed him until he burst out laughing.

We rode a gondola up to the top of mountain and were met with an absolutely stunning view of the alps and town of Oberammergau. We proceeded to take multiple photoshoots on the mountain, which included a griddy line, titanic poses, and piggy back rides. The countryside of Bavaria has a much more open and rural feel from the Augsburg. It amazes me that it only took an hour drive to reach such a vastly different environment from the city. 

An alps panorama

We next had free time in the town of Oberammergau. The town had an authentic German feel to it, kind of exactly like how movies portray Germany. There was a shop with Lederhosen and traditional Bavarian clothing, which were surprisingly expensive (about 200 euros for one pair). I also got to add a few shot glasses to my collection of 133, one of which included a mini beer stein. We finished the day with a meal at a cafe, and I snacked on some delicious spinach balls. I tried some of Vipin’s sauerkraut, and I realized that I prefer the taste American sauerkraut.

Spinach balls!

Today has been a very busy and tiring day, filled with nice mix of business and cultural visits. Bis Morgen!

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