The Final Delivery to DHL

At long last, after months of state-side preparation and three weeks of conducting interviews here in Germany, we’ve reached the end of our project with DHL. Wednesday was presentation day for us, meaning we spent most of the morning and early afternoon fine-tuning content, doing dry-runs of the PowerPoint, and of course, having the occasional last-minute freak out. Oh, and we also forgot to do a blog post amdist all of the final preparations (#SorryKurt).

Look at that sick VIRO model on my screen...

Look at that sick VIRO model on my screen…

Mike, Vince, and the rest of the DHL team invited us north to the company’s headquarters in Bonn one last time to deliver the final presentation. Through the magic of teleconferencing, our findings would be shared with not only the DHL executives in Germany, but also the US-based team back home. And while a few technical snafus delayed the start of the presentation, we delivered our best presentation yet over the next two hours. Each person on the team brought their A-game and was very knowledgeable on their own section and the entire presentation at large. Overall, our presentation was very well-received and will be a tangible asset for DHL to use when educating employees on the buyer behavior of automotive companies for supply chain services.

Team DHL Celebration Selfie

Team DHL Celebration Selfie

However, the success of the project would not have been possible without the incredible level of accessibility and time that each and every person at DHL gave us. Mike White, DHL Supply Chain’s Senior Vice President for the Global Automotive Sector was beyond generous with his time, working with us prior to the trip and on a daily basis once we arrived in Germany. Mike connected us with a wide variety of DHL personnel, including Vince, Scott, Markus, Frank, and Jan, who gave us genuine and transparent insight into the business’ current operations and what lies ahead in the strategic vision. We owe them everything for their genuine interest in our project and openness to share their thoughts.

We also felt very privileged to speak with many of DHL’s customers, some of which headed up multi-billion dollar business units. We greatly appreciated DHL’s immediate faith in us that we would represent our sponsors well in these meetings. As this project was very customer-focused, these client interviews were the backbone to our final findings, and without them, we would not have been able to deliver the true value that DHL was looking for when they brought on this project.

Road Trip!

Road Trip!

DHL also gave us the opportunity to see not just the city of Koblenz, but much of Germany itself. Over the course of the three weeks, we covered over 4,000 kilometers of traveling via the Autobahn (likely accumulating our fair share of speeding tickets once we found out that posted limits were legit and not merely suggestions) and saw much of the beautiful German countryside.

DHL Truck Selfie

Last night, we reflected back on the past year (our first year as MBA students) officially come to an end with the conclusion of the GAP program. It’s hard to believe that just nine months ago, we barely knew each other or where our experience at Fisher would take us. Since then, we’ve formed deep friendships, survived the competitive internship search, and broadened our business knowledge through the classroom. However, without question, the most memorable experience of the entire year will be the thrill of flying to an unfamiliar land to work on a pressing issue for a Fortune 100 company that will have a real and meaningful impact on their business. It was truly an honor and unforgettable experience to work with DHL over the last few months and we thank them for giving the six of us lifelong memories.

With that, we also thank you, the readers, for following our adventures over the last three weeks.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Team DHL at HQ

Water water everywhere!!!

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We just got back from Cologne after wrapping up our final review session with the client. This is it guys… tomorrow is the D-day (So glad we are done before my birthday!!). We have traveled a lot during this trip, some days coming back to Koblenz to only sleep! Like our client mentioned today “it was like you guys were put in a dishwasher or dryer and rotated”! But we had a jolly good time!!!

No matter what Rick Steves has to say we are in love with our Koblenz; a quaint little European town with numerous town squares, historic statues and the river by our apartment. It is fascinating to see the cuisine variety we here. I came across three Indian restaurants near a single square! But what I loved the most about Kolblenz were the fountains.

Most of us from team Germany have forgotten the taste of still water (much to Devin’s dismay). Whenever you ask for water here it is normal to be served “wasser mit gas” (water with gas) so we (by we I mean only Devin) have to specially mention “wasser no gas” or still. There is not free water/tap water concept here!! Even though it is completely safe to drink tap water Germans don’t offer it; the word for tap water is “leitungswasser” which converts as plumbing water, sooo offering plumbing water is a no no!! So, where does all of Devin’s water go in Koblenz… the fountains!!!

The most famous one though is the Spitting Boy of Koblenz. We found that out the scary way. Imagine taking a late evening stroll and stopping to admire this statue and suddenly he starts spitting water (I think one of us even screamed!)

Spitting Boy!!!

The Spitting Boy is actually called Spitting John who represents all the bastard sons of invading French soldiers. This shows the town’s dislike for foreign authority.

More beautiful fountains:

The Koblenz Fountain: depicting its history

The Koblenz Fountain: depicting its history

Girl playing with ducks

Girl playing with ducks

Dancing Couples

Dancing Couples

Trying to figure out the strange take on Noah's arc!

Trying to figure out the strange take on Noah’s arc!

See… water water everywhere!!!

Now we get back to fine tuning our final presentation. FYI everyone is invited to the Wednesday night karaoke project ending/birthday party!

Danke!!!

Cruising on a Sunday Afternoon

Did every GAP team spend the weekend in a vehicle besides a car? Seriously, between boat trips in Oman and Malaysia and Team France taking to the air, we covered enough modes of transportation fit for a Steve Martin/John Candy buddy comedy.

Well, Team Germany was no different. Sunday was our big social outing with the DHL team, as we celebrated the conclusion of our three-week stint in Europe. Koblenz, our home base for the project, is nestled at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel, making it the perfect spot for hopping on a boat and seeing some castles. Let’s do this thing.

Look! There’s one now!

Castle #1

Little did we know that Sunday also happened to be the Koblenz Marathon, thus creating a logistical snafu (ironic given the subject matter of our project) and causing two of our guests to literally miss the boat. Seriously, couldn’t they have run 26.2 miles (sorry, 42 KMs) somewhere else?!?!

More Rhine Prettiness...

More Rhine Prettiness…

To no-one’s surprise, Natalie became claiming castles for her future reign in a merciless Cerci Lannister-like approach that left few survivors in her wake.

Castle #3

While the weather in Koblenz has mostly been reminiscent of our much-envied Columbus climate, the sun broke through this afternoon, initiating the overdue brews on boats segment of the trip. Fun fact we learned on the trip: Germany has an official association of castles, headquartered at the stunning building below.

Castle #4

Germany Castle Association HQ

While on our trip, we got to bond with our contacts at DHL (Mike, Vince, Yan, and Scott – a Fisher alum!) and their families. Little did we know that we were sitting amongst a celebrity the whole time. Our main POC at DHL, Mike White, was an extra in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (thank God it wasn’t the fourth one).

After cruising down the Rhine for a few hours, we stopped over at Boppard, a small village along the Rhine, to meet up with the rest of the team for ice cream sundaes. And my God were they delicious.

Boppard

 

But alas, all good things must come to an end. such as this project in the next 48 hours. As we disembarked for our trek back up to Koblenz, we said farewell to a few of our DHL contacts for the last time. It’s truly been a pleasure to work with the world’s leading logistics provider over the past three weeks. We’ve had incredibly access to executives from leading auto manufacturers and tier-1 suppliers all across Germany, and of course, DHL itself. And now, it’s time for us to return the favor. Stay tuned for more information on our final presentation in the next few days!

DHL Boat Cruise 2K14!

DHL Boat Cruise 2K14!

 

Having a Dam Good Time in Amsterdam

Yep. That’s right. We went to Amsterdam.

Leaving the open and unrestricted speed lanes behind us (seriously Netherlands, 120 km/h? We’re driving German-engineered cars, not Power Wheels), Team Germany headed north for the weekend to get our passports stamped in another country.

What’s that? You don’t get your passport stamped when you come in by car?!?

Well, whatever, we went to the Netherlands and we have the pictures to prove it.

I Am Amsterdam

Upon emerging from the depths of the Amsterdam Metro system (side note: the city-wide janitorial staff for the Metro system is currently on strike. Every train and station looked like the spaceport in The Fifth Element [credit Tim Kiss for that amazing reference] and we weren’t going to be the scabs to start cleaning up the place), we realized that we sorely lacked the appropriate transportation needed to get around the city.

In Amsterdam, the pecking order for right of way goes like this:

  1. Bikes. All 1,000,000+ of them. Seriously, it’s insane.
  2. Boats (while not conflicting with traffic, they are the object of desire of every pedestrian in the city)
  3. Mopeds
  4. Cars
  5. Pigeons
  6. People with walking sticks
  7. People biking with a giant bucket in the front of their bike to carry other people who were too lazy to bike (shocker: Natalie wanted to rent one of these)
  8. Regular people walking

In front of my very own eyes, a guy was clipped by a biker and started bleeding from his arm right in the middle of the street. This was treated by the locals as a regular occurrence.

Speaking about unusual lacerations to the body, Friday night’s events included a stop over at the Vincent van Gogh museum, which doubles as a music venue on Friday evenings for aspiring DJs and contemporary jazz bands. @JoeyClarktheIII would have uttered the phrase “the jams” a record number of times.

Friday Night Lights at the Van Gogh Museum

Friday Night Lights at the Van Gogh Museum

Later on, we took to the streets to continue our Street Dance Party: International Tour Edition (copyright 2014). Knowing that we would be calling Saturday an early night as we needed to hit the road first thing on Sunday, we committed to Friday being a big night and subsequently closed down the Amsterdam bar scene. Hamburg trained us well.

Sruti and Natalie Dance Party

 

Saturday was filled with enjoying quite possibly the nicest day in human history. We kicked off the morning with a boat ride from our hotel through the heart of Amsterdam’s canal system, checking out the best of the best houseboats Amsterdam had to offer. While this was a great way to experience the entire city by day, we were suffering from serious FOMO once we realized that you could rent private boats and drive them yourselves. Unfortunately for us, everything was already booked for the day. I’ll regret not driving around a boat for the afternoon and having my team refer to me as “Captain” until the day I die.

Over the course of the day, we worked through one of the biggest open-air markets in the world, took a nap in a beautiful park, stumbled upon the Royal Palace, visited Anne Frank’s house, and caught the Netherlands soccer (excuse me, football) game with a wild crowd of spectators. Oh, and we got a bunch of cool pictures too. Check ‘em out.

Netherlands Bridge

 

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Team DHL at Royal Palace

 

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Man I really mailed in the end of this post. Until next time Amsterdam…

 

92 Plates of Sushi on the Wall…

With just under a week to go until our final presentation to DHL executives, our group was hard at work on Thursday, formulating our strategy and pulling together the frameworks for a cohesive presentation. This week, we were able to augment the wealth of information we gathered the week prior with newfound information we gained from a global OEM and Tier-1 auto supplier in Hannover. We finished combining these two data sets to prepare the first draft of our presentation for Professor Matta (our academic advisor for the trip) who would be arriving in Koblenz shortly.

For the second straight day, our team sought shelter in one of the comforts of our homeland – Starbucks. While our three week long conquest against our struggling WiFi continues to hamper our progress at-home, it’s been a bit of a blessing in disguise. With connectivity fit for the Ethiopian team, we’ve immersed ourselves throughout the city of Koblenz, befriending any dining establishment willing to provide even a moment of free access.

After our group reached a consensus on the first draft of our presentation, we headed upstairs to check out the food court in Koblenz’s one and only mall. Having dabbled into many of the different ethnic food groups throughout Koblenz, we realized that sushi was a glaring hole in our cuisine bucket list. For the low, low price of 9,90 Euro/person, we dove into the sushi buffet and never looked back.

Sushi Plates

At least for the first 92 plates. Between five of us, we came damn near close to pushing the century mark on plates of sushi (thanks but no thanks to Sruti for not joining us in body but not in spirit on our quest). At one point, I made a quip about how disgustingly American we were with our large appetites and raucous personalities. Our German-Japanese (what a combo!) waitress silently agreed. And by silently agreed, I mean she verbally acknowledged my comment and agreed that we were basically the worst.

Later in the day, Professor Dr. Matta graced us with his presence. We had a chance to walk him through our progress and gain valuable insight into how to make this a memorable and actionable project for the DHL executives.

Team DHL with Matta

Once we finished usurping the lobby of his hotel for an impromptu meeting, the group headed out for authentic German-inspired Italian cuisine along the Rhine. Having nearly eaten the entire town’s supply of sushi between five of us earlier that day, our stomach and digestive track rallied from a deep hole to dig in on the delicious food.

All in all, Senor Professor Dr. Matta seemed as content with our presentation as he was with his seafood dinner. With much of the legwork of our presentation behind us, we called it an early night to prep for our final site visit on Friday before heading off to Amsterdam for the night.

If we happen to find anything noteworthy from our trek to Amsterdam, we’ll be sure to share it here over the weekend. But I’m doubtful that will happen.

Thursday Was a Great Day

With three days of on-site client visits under our belt, we were finally called up to the big leagues on Thursday. The day started with a drive up to Bonn, where DHL’s headquarters literally towers over everything else in the city. Our mission? To meet with Martin Seidenberg, the CEO of DHL Supply Chain for Germany and the Alps region. Our enthusiasm level? Higher than DHL’s Post Tower Building, which stands at 41 stories. Our caffeine level? In the danger zone.

We met up with Mike and Vince, our hosts for the project, for coffee beforehand in one of DHL’s cafes on the ground floor. Despite not having an engineering background or being in the elevator lift industry, I was fascinated with the technology. Open glass chutes allowed you to see the entire interior workings of the lift system and terminals notified you which lift to take in order to get to your floor the quickest way possible. The lifts also surged at incredibly speeds. Apparently, when the tower was first built, people kept passing out so they had to tone down the speed. Sounds like a ride at Disney World.

Our meeting with Martin was incredibly informative. We not only focused on the automotive industry (our scope for this project) but also talked about the supply chain industry in general. Martin had great insight into the five- and ten-year outlook, highlighting changes that logistics providers like DHL must make in order to keep up with the industry.

Team DHL at DHL HQ

After our meeting with Martin and lunch at DHL’s canteen, we headed back to Koblenz to debrief and grab dinner. One of the interesting aspects about Koblenz is its wide variety of international cuisine. For a relatively small German town, there are many off-continent dining options, including Mexican, Vietnamese, Turkish, Argentinian, and more. Feeling a little sausage-and-potatoed out over the last few days, we decided to grab some Pho at a restaurant simply called Hanoi. Similar to our experience on Monday at the Mexican restaurant, we struggled a bit through the tri-lingual menu (in Vietnamese, German, and English) but managed to order some delicious eats.

So Pho-king Good

We capped off the night with a drink (OK, two drinks) at another local tavern, convincing ourselves that this was an important team building activity that was central to the success of our project. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for a follow-up meeting with the Tier-1 supplier we met on Monday, along with Mike, our trusted project leader. After that, we’ll be hitting the road to Hamburg to soak in the 825th (that’s right, 825th) celebration of the Port of Hamburg. Get your popcorn ready.

Getting Comfortable in Koblenz

Hallo (that means Hello) from our German home! After only a few days in Koblenz, we are starting to feel comfortable with not speaking the language, driving (and stalling) on the Autobahn, and interviewing VP-level (and above) executives in the automobile industry.

To compensate for the delicate pastries, heavy bratwursts, and free flowing beers, I’ve gone on a couple of runs along the rivers. Koblenz is located on the confluence of two rivers: the Rhine and the Moselle, in the heart of wine country. Newsflash: running with beautiful scenery makes the experience much more pleasant.

Running with a view

Today was our first long drive day, which meant plenty of team bonding on the Autobahn.  Devin and Tim would yell “Ausfahrt” (that means exit) every time we passed a highway exit. Meanwhile, I would daydream about living in one of the many castles that lined the German hills. Neither of these activities should be considered unusual, if you know us.

Ausfahrt, ya!

Back to business. Today we toured DHL’s warehouse located around the corner from Audi’s main manufacturing plant. Now, this is not your textbook (MBA 6231 Operations I) warehouse. DHL does sub assembly for Audi, which basically means that they receive lots of tiny parts from suppliers, then DHL assembles into a larger piece and sends to Audi so they can seamlessly pop it onto the vehicle on the assembly line. I never would’ve thought that a logistics company would do pretty complicated manufacturing, so I learned something new today! Plus, we get to wear sweet safety gear, so I make sure to document every time that happens.

We look good in neon green, no?

 

The boys went off to Karaoke Night at our neighborhood Irish Pub, where they made friends with locals and also came across some University of Michigan undergrads. Don’t worry,  only playful rivalry ensued. Our Buckeyes decided not to get on stage this time around, but stay tuned till next week, where maybe our comfort level will be ready to belt out some Backstreet Boys. Any song requests?

Taking Y’all to Church on Our DHL Project

As our circadian rhythms and livers continue to adjust to Germany, it’s probably about time to introduce our loyal readers to our project. Over the next three weeks, we’re meeting with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and tier-1 suppliers to help DHL Supply Chain’s Global Automotive Sector determine the buying behaviors of both prospective and current customers. Since we were assigned this project back in late February, we’ve met with DHL clients stateside to understand the industry and get a feel for DHL’s many, many different services within the automotive supply chain. And now that we’re on DHL’s home turf of Germany, we’re traveling all over the country to develop findings and a solution that can not only be applied to Europe, but can also be extended to DHL’s global market.

Ford Sign

On Monday, we met with one of DHL’s freight forwarding customers, a tier-1 safety equipment manufacturer located in our home base of Koblenz. Our main point of contact, Helge, gave us a thorough background of their business and how the approach logistics procurement. Tuesday’s agenda took us to Cologne, where we met with Markus of DHL’s Lead Logistics Provider team, which manages the entire supply chain for Ford Europe. DHL’s team for this project works just feet away from where Ford produces all of its Fiesta cars for the European market. While on-site, we got a personalized tour of the entire production complex, from where the body frame is created to where the finished car is rolled off the line for final quality testing. For security reasons, we weren’t able to take pictures throughout the tour, so you’ll have to take our word for it about how insanely awesome, complex, and impressive the entire process is when orchestrated in real-time. However, we did get a picture of us in our snazzy vests.

Team DHL at Ford

After spending the day with Markus and his team, we found our way over to the Koln Dom (the Cologne Cathedral), Germany’s #1 tourist destination. While walking through a tunnel (which smelled like the exact opposite of what cologne should smell like) on the way over, I Wikipedia’ed as much as I could about the church and impressed my teammates with off-the-cuff knowledge about its prolific history (Don’t tell them I did this… I want them to think I’m smart). For instance, did you know that the Cologne Cathedral was the world’s tallest building from 1880-1884? Boom. You’ve been knowledge’d.

Team DHL in Cologne

For dinner, we headed over to Fruh to try out one of Cologne’s famous dishes. “Heaven & Hell”, as it is loosely translated, is an interesting combo of blood pudding served over apples and mashed potatoes. Tim seemed to be halfheartedly enjoying the experience, until his first burp which, by the looks of it, was a negative life-altering experience. Also, a quick note on Cologne’s beer policy: if you order a beer at a restaurant, they’ll keep bringing you new ones until you politely refuse. Now that’s what I call customer service.

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Despite the mixed reviews about blood pudding, Cologne’s cuisine TOTALLY redeemed itself with its nougat pretzels, a combo of white and dark chocolate, nougat, and almonds resulting in a diabetic shock and cavity inducing pastry of sheer deliciousness. Needless to say, we slept like kings.

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Lady and the Tramp

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Team DHL Assembles in Germany

GAP Avengers

“There was an idea… to bring together a group of remarkable people to see if they could become something more.” – The Avengers

Eat your heart our Nick Fury.

Just as the Avengers Initiative assembled a team of complementary strengths to “solve” an incredible problem, so too does the Fisher College of Business’ Global Applied Projects program. Introducing Team Yellow, made up of six MBA students who are making the trek to Koblenz, Germany to work with DHL’s Global Automotive Sector.

Brian Glorioso brings three years of finance experience, having worked in the real estate industry following his studies at the University of Chicago. On the strategy, Team Yellow is represented by Devin Henderson and Natalie Jarecki, whose backgrounds include working for The Ohio State University and Abercrombie & Fitch respectively. Sruti Jagabattula gives the team its international flair, with experiencing working for Tata Power and Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited in India. Tim Kiss is the team’s automotive guru, having worked for a Honda supplier in product development for five years prior to arriving at Fisher. And finally, yours truly, Mark Steidler is the team’s marketing resource, with three and a half years in a business-to-business marketing role.

Over the next three weeks, this blog will document our work for DHL, life in Germany, and all of the adventures in between. But for now, we’re trying to fight off jet lag (Ed note: what Mark really means is that the team is exploring the city for the best beer garden). Catch up with us tomorrow when we’ll tell you a little bit more about our project with DHL and life in Koblenz. Auf Wiedersehen!