A tour of the Audi plant in Ingolstadt yesterday left me feeling like I had just visited a space station… and I swear those robots were looking right at me. The corporate logo “Vorsprung durch Technich” translates roughly into “Advantage Through Technology”, and indeed there was a lot of amazing technology, resulting of course in some really fast cars that just burn up the Autobahn at the speed of light (I much prefer the Autobahn to LA freeways – maybe it’s because all the drivers seem to know what they’re doing). In the midst of technology that can apply four coats of paint into literally the thickness of a human hair, it seems odd that before the primer coat goes on, they dust off the surface with EMU feathers. Seriously, right there in that fabulous “clean room environment”, Audi uses giant feather dusters to prep the surface – nothing else will do. I was disappointed in their artistic acumen to find, however, that the most popular colors are silver, black, and pearly white, with “Grandma gold” coming in a distant 5th or 6th.
Audi doesn’t seem to go in for fancy car names like American manufacturers do; they restrain their MBA’s and simply name their cars A3, A4, A5, etc. Quite refreshing for those of us who cringe at names like Armada and Maurauder.
Ergonomics guides the processes where humans are involved, so the workers’ backs and wrists are protected, but I couldn’t help but wonder what that assembly line shift work does to their psyches. I know I personally wouldn’t last the first two hours before I told threw down my pneumatic screwdriver and said some very bad words. Then again, it may not be an issue for much longer as the march of progress continues down the path of robotization. Thirty thousand blue collar jobs in this little town, and my guess is that most are about to do a Detroit.
On the other side of the coin, where nature meets the 21st century, there is good news. The local paper had an article that was still on the coffee table about a resurgence of White Storks. The headline reads “Im Aufwind”, which can refer to both riding thermals and to being on the upswing. The local stork population was nearly eliminated in the 80’s, but enjoyed unusually favorable breeding conditions in this region this year. One stork eats one pound of food per day, which translates into roughly 24 mice or 1,100 worms. Eew. Normally they breed here, then migrate to Spain or north Africa for the winter, but recent winters have seen them only going as far as Spain, taking advantage of garbage dumps… Eeww.
As I sketched the photo, I kept thinking this is an impossible anatomy, but then again, no more impossible than our herons in Oregon I suppose. Such big eyes they have! And such awkward legs!