Student researchers gain first-hand look at German manufacturing

Isaiah Butler and Hector Mena took in something extra during their spring break trip to Germany: behind-the-scenes tours at Germany manufacturers.

They combined their undergraduate research as part of the LSAMP undergraduate research program and the course MFET 49900 (Technology Innovation and Culture in Bavaria) during the weeklong trip to Germany over the spring break.

Butler and Mena are researching differences in the manufacturing practices in the United States and in Germany. Butler is conducting a comparison of each country’s manufacturing histories and best practices, from Henry Ford to the practices of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Mena is focusing on the modeling programs automotive manufacturers use, such as IronCAD or CATIA.

“I’m studying logistics and how they manage logistics sequence and production,” Butler said.

This semester’s project is Butler’s second LSAMP undergraduate research project. “I got so much out of the first one,” he said, “ I decided to see how I could take it further.”

Mena gained good insights during the tours.

“I learned that larger companies like BMW tend to stick to CATIA for their models, as it is one of the leading CAD packages,” he said. “It isn't a standard though. While visiting KUKA robotics, I noticed that they used their own private software. It was a great experience to go from handling KUKA robot models, to seeing them built, to finally seeing them on the assembly line at MAN automotive and BMW.”

Butler will graduate in May with a degree in industrial technology and organizational leadership and supervision. Mena is a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering technology.

The students’ research mentor is Henry Kraebber, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering technology. Kraebber has led 10 student trips to Germany, exposing 138 students to international manufacturing.

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