17 April, 2010

An American in Düsseldorf

As a soundtrack to this post, please play this video:


This past Thursday I awoke at the inhuman hour of 3:30am in order to catch a bus to Düsseldorf. Well, it was definitely worth the trouble. I was going to Düssledorf in the first place because WAFIOS AG, the company I'm interning at, had a large display at a technical trade show last week. The bus ride and entrance price was sponsored by the company (thank you WAFIOS!).

Everyone has been talking about this trade show basically non-stop since I started working there, so I was really glad to be able to go and see what all of the hype was about. There was something like 1500 exhibitors from the wire and tube industries which includes companies that actually make the wire and tube, companies that make machines that make the wire and tube, companies like WAFIOS that make machines that produce things out of wire and tube and companies that provide special solutions in all of those fields. It was a big show. A lot of the companies were putting a lot of store in it too because of the state of the economy.

In September 2009 I attended the IAA (International Auto Show) in Frankfurt which was a consumer show so all of the displays there were designed for accessibility and  to make their products look really good. Well the wire and Tube was an industrial trade show so most of the displays were designed around meeting areas for customers and representatives. Pretty much every booth had a bar and a Kantine (cafeteria area) where customers were entertained. Some of them were two storied. For some pictures take a look at this slideshow.

(Oh, that beer was a special Düsseldorf Alt Bier. I sampled it on request of my dad who is an avid homebrewer.)

I was very impressed by the WAFIOS booth(s). They had one of the most diverse range of machines on display. A lot of the other companies were specialized in one type of machine, for example, machines for making springs. But WAFIOS had those types of machines in various sizes in addition to machines for bending wire, for making nails, for bending tube and if you include Böhm, a partner company, machines for drawing and finishing wire. I was very proud to be a part of a company with such a large market presence.

On the way home, we watched Up, in German, and I just barely made the last bus from the city center to my dorm at 11:30pm. So, it was a very long day, but also very rewarding. And luckily, I had the day off on Friday, so I could sleep in for as long as I wanted.

In other news, I've been enjoying working in the Lehrwerkstatt where WAFIOS trains all of its apprentices. This week I was in the Electrician room and practiced soldering and some circuit fundamentals. I learned a lot of new words like Lötkolben and Sterndreieck mit Wendebetrieb. I'm not entirely sure how to translate that second one, but it has something to do with a circuit used in operating an electric motor...star-delta with something.

I finally uploaded the rest of the pictures I've taken this year. Feel free to browse them at your leisure.

Thanks for reading.

28 March, 2010

Life as a non-intern

In other news, I have continued to be involved in activities at the Baptist church in Reutlingen and a couple of choirs in town.

Most notably, last week I participated in the youth group's (high school age) Kollektivewoche. That means they ate and slept at the church whenever they weren't at school. In the evenings after dinner there was some worship time and then a discussion on a specific topic. I didn't stay over-night because I needed my beauty sleep, but I hung out over there most every evening. They've got a really great bunch of kids. It was really fun getting to know them a little better. I know them well enough now that they laugh at my American accent, but in return they try to teach me Schwäbisch, so it's all good. Oh, yeah at the beginning of the week the youth club led the Sunday morning worship service. The theme was New vs. Alt based on Col. 3:1-17, for which it just happens that I have a great testimony about my experiences from working in North Lawndale two summers ago. So I gave a testimony in English and Martin, the pastor, read a translation in German. Twas truly a blessing to be able to share my experiences with them.

At the beginning of March I started giving drumset lessons to my worship team's leader. She's been a great student so far, and she can speak English fluently, so that makes things easy.

I'm still singing with the Reutlinger Liederkranz. In case you were interested, Kranz is a word for circle or wreath, so a Liederkranz is a song circle or more like a garland of songs. Yesterday the men's choir of the Liederkranz sang at a 50th wedding anniversary church service. That was lots of fun. We all got bottles of Sekt as gifts. I have also been singing with a youth choir from one of the Evangelical churches in Reutlingen. I'll just say it's a completely different atmosphere in rehearsals with the youth choir compared to with the adults.

I found out that I passed the one Engineering course I took last semester in German with a 1.9 which is somewhere between an A and a B! Now I just have to see if Valpo will except it as transfer credit.

My roommate, Mark, is currently on spring break for two weeks. His girlfriend flew over and they went to Italy together. I'm so jealous. It's still between Winter and Spring here, but Italy is probably gorgeous.

Thanks for reading. I'll try to post again after the trade show (April 12-16), but I'm not making any promises ;)

Life as an intern

That's right, it's the moment you've all been waiting for: I am sitting down to write a post! So much has happened in the past two months that I almost don't know where to start. And I'll have to be careful not to reveal any company secrets along the way.

On Feb. 1 I started working at WAFIOS AG in Reutlingen. WAFIOS is a fairly old company which is in the business of making machines for the production of wire and tube. It is a world market leader in this niche. The machines produced by WAFIOS are top of the line and everything is done to match customer specifications. WAFIOS has two plants, a logistics center and a training facility in Reutlingen. It has another plant in Wuppertal, Germany, distribution/service centers in Connecticut and Brazil and numerous partner companies in Germany and Switzerland. And it's all privately owned (that's what AG means). WAFIOS machines are used in a very wide range of industries to name a few: automotive, furniture, consumer goods, electronics, construction and home appliances.

I started working in the Sales Media department. Pretty much any document that has anything to do with sales goes through our department: brochures, flyers, presentations, you name it. There are currently three other workers in the office, one of whom is responsible for the photos that are published in the brochures and the videos that are displayed at trade shows.

Almost everybody speaks German with me and on top of that, most of it is Schwäbisch, the local dialect. I still have trouble following along with conversations, but I'm getting better.

Right now things are hectic because everyone is preparing for a big trade show held in Düsseldorf in April. It's the biggest show for the wire and tube industry and a lot of sales and deals are made there. We've been making new material for the machines to be premiered at the show and updating old documents too.

I started by learning CorelDRAW, a computer drawing program. That was pretty easy. It's a really straightforward program. After a couple weeks, I guess people started realizing that there was an English speaker in the office, because I was brought a few English documents to look over and German stuff to translate. It turns out the official translator who would usually take care of all of that is away on maternity leave.

I learned a lot by translating. There was a lot of terminology in the brochures that I never learned in school: mostly machinery terminology, but also marketing-style words. Only a couple weeks ago I started recording every word I had to look up in a spreadsheet and I already have 100 words (here's a copy if you're interested).

During my first week, my boss made it clear that I was not allowed to sit at my desk the entire day, so I got into the habit of grabbing a cup of coffee/hot chocolate every hour or so and going for a walk around the production floor. I really enjoyed seeing most of the concepts we've learned about in Engineering classes in practice. I got to the know layout of the factory after a while. It was cool to watch the progress of the machines getting built.

One of my other assignments was to get to know all of the products that WAFIOS offers. That is no small task because WAFIOS produces something like 200 different types of machines. There's machines for making springs of all sizes and shapes, bending tube into pretty much any shape imaginable, twisting barbed wire, weaving chain-link fence, making nails/rivets, bending and welding chain and for simply straightening and cutting-off wire. Most of the machines start at a base model, but are modularly expandable, so there's also tons of documentation on what options are available for which machine.

Just the principle of producing from wire was new to me. In school we learned how to make things by cutting away material from a block or rod, but bending wire and tube is a completely different concept. The wire is shipped in a coil, but in order to work it, you have to straighten it first. You don't want to squish it too much or else the profile will change, but you still have to feed it to the forming tools at a reasonably high speed and force. Well, whether we were aware of it or not, engineers have been finding solutions to these questions for centuries and they're still coming up with innovations now.

As you might be able to tell, I am very happy with my internship so far. WAFIOS is a great example of German excellence and I am proud to be a small part of it. I'll be in the Media department until the trade show, then I'm scheduled rotate a little bit through other departments just to see how things work. I'm also looking forward to going on a company-sponsored bus trip to the trade show on April 15.

That's all for now. Keep an eye out for another post about by non-work related activities.

29 January, 2010

A Quick Update

This is just a short post to update all of you, my lovely readers, on my progress on finding an internship here in Reutlingen. Well, to put it shortly, I've done it. I received a draft of a contract from WAFIOS AG yesterday which I plan on signing on my first day of work this Monday.

To begin with I'll be working in the Sales Media department preparing technical documents. WAFIOS participates in a large wire-industry trade show in April for which they'll need documentation on all of their new machines and updates on their old ones.

After the trade show in April I will rotate around the other departments for a few weeks and then finish in the Technical Office where they work on new designs.

For more information about WAFIOS AG, see their website http://www.wafios.de/.

Wish me luck!