Encounter Engineering in Europe

This month’s blog post comes from a group of engineering students who recently traveled to Germany as part of LSU’s Encounter Engineering in Europe (E3) study abroad program! To read more about their exciting trip, check out their blog at http://ecubed2014.weebly.com/


Originally published on July 4, 2014

Today we visited the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. We began in the gift shop, and as some of us were in line to pay, we almost missed the tour. After running to catch up with our group, we were seated in a room to see an introductory presentation. After precisely 4 minutes and 11 seconds of technical difficulty (our guide was very specific), we had to move on without the presentation, for Germans value promptness. Our Italian/German tour guide, Giacomo, had a need for speed as he gave us a driving tour through the factory – we were driven in a Volkswagen car (that can, as he demonstrated, accelerate from 0 to 60 in only a few seconds) with a train of seats attached behind.

As we zoomed through the factory, we saw cars and car parts being made, assembled, and quality tested. VW uses 2500 robots in the body shop, and the factory produces 3800 cars per day. Volkswagen has taken steps to improve efficiency by using a kind of high resistance steel, which you can visually discern from regular steel because it’s a darker color. Because the high-resistance steel is more rigid, VW can use thinner pieces of steel that are just as strong as the thicker regular pieces – this replacement makes the cars more lightweight, but just as strong. German dance music played throughout the factory for the workers to enjoy, but according to our tour guide, the employees are “not allowed to dance of course.”


E3 group in front of the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg

The national love of soccer has resulted in an abundance of German pride within the factory. Some machines are green and white in support of the local Wolfsburg soccer team. Additionally, some cars driven through the factory had German flags on the windows. “The Germans are for the Germans, this is clear,” says Giacomo as we zoom by.

Our tour guide has worked his way up through the ranks and knew everything about the factory; he even helped develop one of the newer cars. His expertise included the history of the facility, and he explained to us that, amazingly, some of the original parts of the building have been preserved since WWII. In some parts of the factory, we saw holes in the ceiling where the factory was bombed.

Afterwards we ate currywurst for lunch at a Volkswagen company cafeteria – VW makes over 7 million of its famous sausages per year. The meal was indeed authentic, as well as very delicious. Everything we saw or heard throughout the entire Volkswagen tour was undeniably informative, entertaining, and full of character.