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Grainger Center Takes Trip to Germany; Explores Supply Chain Abroad

by Brittney Mitchell Friday, April 26, 2013

Over spring break 2013, the Grainger Center for Supply Chain Management took a group of 13 undergraduate students to Prague and Germany, where they learned how foreign companies handle supply chain issues specifically related to the automobile industry.

The trip included tours of BMW, Volkswagen, Axmann, and DHL facilities. During the site visits, students had the chance to interact with supply chain professionals at these well-known companies.

“Although I have taken quite a few supply chain management courses, the opportunity to put the pieces of the curriculum together in a real-world setting was truly invaluable,” said Jenna Mueller, a junior and a marketing major with a specialization in supply chain management. “It was truly an once-in-a-lifetime experience!”

Group at the East Gallery, longest
remaining section of the Berlin Wall
The group at the VW Transparent
Each facility gave students a unique look at innovation in the auto industry. Volkswagen Transparent Factory in Dresden has the manufacturing process staged as a public performance, giving visitors the opportunity to watch the final assembly of the site’s only manufactured car, the Volkswagen Phaeton.

Senior Jared West said the trip helped him learn about supply chain from a non-U.S. based perspective, which will be helpful for him in the future.

“We talk in class a lot about globalization and the increasing role it has on how we do business. It is great to learn about foreign companies in a classroom setting, but this doesn't compare to actually being able to see these how these companies operate,” said West, who is a marketing major with a specialization in supply chain. “The global trip gave me the chance to ask questions and understand how foreign companies handle various supply chain issues.”

In Leipzig, students toured BMW, Axmann, and DHL Leipzig Hub. BMW allowed students a glimpse into one of the most modern sustainable car facilities in the world, which produces 750 cars each day, all in custom order, using a just-in-time, just-in-sequence process. At Axmann, students learned about custom conveyor systems that are built for companies like Volkswagen, BMW, DHL, airports, and the United States Postal Service.

Aside from touring the different facilities, a major highlight of the trip was a dinner with several German students at a traditional German restaurant called Pulver Turm. The German students gave presentations on their bachelor’s thesis projects and the companies where they were working.

“I now better understand what goes on behind a product sitting on the shelf and the complexity involved in making it simple. The experience has motivated me to continue to be involved in global supply chain. The trip exceeded my expectations and I absolutely recommend it to future supply chain management students,” said Karen Sanchez, senior and marketing major with a specialization in supply chain management.

This trip was made possible with the collaboration of Professor Dr. Ingo Gestring of HTW Dresden University of Applied Science and Grainger Center for Supply Chain Management Director Verda Blythe.