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Study Abroad Student Report: Rachel Cheek

Rachel Cheek and other students of the Switzerland study abroad group stand together in a group dressed in neon yellow safety vests and white hard hats.

Hallo und Guten Tag! My name is Rachel, and I am a rising senior majoring in industrial engineering with a minor in reliability and maintainability (R&M for short). I studied Reliability and Business Excellence in Zürich, Switzerland for three weeks in the Summer of 2023.

We had a class session almost daily where we discussed R&M topics in relation to business and manufacturing. Most days after our class we went on excursions such as plant or facility tours. Some days we had all-day excursions to facilities that took the place of class time. Many of the facilities and manufacturing plants we visited were in Switzerland, but we were also able to visit a few cities in Germany as well. The manufacturing plants we visited were Holcim cement manufacturing, Trumpf smart factory, Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory, Mercedes Benz manufacturing plant, and ABB robotics. At each of these facilities the employees were extremely helpful and interested in teaching us about their jobs. In addition to learning about the day-to-day of what each company does, we learned about the R&M initiatives that the companies have in place. One of the most interesting things I learned was that many of the companies strictly follow Lean principles in order to be successful in what they do. Each company had a different specific area of focus, but all of them mentioned how they use Lean to better their business.

On the days we did not have a plant or facility visit after class, we were able to explore Zürich or visit other nearby cities. Because of a German holiday during our first weekend, we were able to enjoy a three-day weekend and visit Mount Pilatus in Luzern. We visited many of the museums in Zürich as well as the zoo. After visiting the Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory, we visited Montreux and got to see the famous Freddie Mercury statue overlooking Lake Geneva. During our last weekend in Switzerland we took a trip to Engelberg and traveled to the top of Mount Titlis, which is 10,000 feet above sea level! We got to experience the mountaintop snow in the summer which was an incredible, and very cold, experience.