My Plus3 trip to Germany has come to a close and I’ve returned home for the summer. I’ve only been home for a few days, but I already miss Germany. The trip was truly phenomenal; I learned so much and had such a great time doing it. I’m definitely going back as soon as possible.
The program gave a fantastic view into both the European and global automotive industry. All of the company tours – Hoerbiger, GROB, Faurecia, and Audi – gave wonderful presentations about what they did and how they are affected by the shift from internal combustion vehicles to electric ones. Some of them are more prepared than others, but all understand that there isn’t much future for gasoline-powered cars. They also understand that the future looks different in different parts of the world. Europe and China are much further ahead in the transition to EVs, while the US is lagging far behind; given the weights of each of these markets, the companies must balance both ICVs and EVs for the next decade, at least.
While the business strategy component of the program was interesting and is very necessary, I was much more interested in the engineering aspects of the trip. I was most fascinated by the factory tours; the GROB tour had me jumping up and down with excitement (literally). I was intrigued by both the complex products each company was making, but also how their manufacturing lines were operating. The floor of each company featured high levels of automation and optimization, striving for efficiency and workers’ quality of life. It was these small details – delivery trams for parts, automated stock and parts logistics, ergonomic tools and comfortable assembly positioning – that set these German firms apart from my understanding of American manufacturing firms. The idea that these factors were considered amazes me, and shows that the firms can maintain the balance between the well-being of their workers and the need to have efficient and high quality production; something that firms across the world should emulate, and something I’m keeping in mind for the future.
Outside of the business and engineering portions of the program, there was plenty of time to enjoy being in Germany. While only two weeks in the country isn’t enough time to fully embrace and understand the culture and history, we were certainly given a very detailed view. Throughout the trip, I found myself comparing Germany to home. So many aspects of life are completely different, and in most cases, I prefer the way they are in Germany. Transportation came to mind the most often. It’s so easy to travel via public transportation throughout all of Germany that many families only have one car, if at all, which is almost unheard of in Pittsburgh. I could travel from Augsburg to Munich, to Berlin, to Köln, to Hamburg, and nearly everywhere in between, without sitting in a car. If I want to take the bus from my house to Pittsburgh, I have to drive at least twenty minutes, then wait another half an hour for the bus to arrive, and then sit on the bus for an hour. An Augsburger could be nearly in Austria in that amount of time.
The food was much better as well. It was simpler, but it was much more filling and so much more fresh. I really enjoyed the meat-heavy cuisine, but also enjoyed the fresh bread, cheese, and fruit that went with it. I missed it as soon as I boarded the plane for Charlotte. I also enjoyed how simple everything seemed overall. This is harder to explain, but there’s much more simplicity in German life than in American, and it comes down to the smaller details. It comes to tax-included-in-price, for cheaper food, and transportation, obviously. These little things add up, and make me want to live in Germany instead of the United States.
I already miss Germany, and I already want to go back. I learned so many things, saw so many historically significant places, and made so many friends – it was all very memorable. Every last second.