Florian Penz, a student at the Montan University Leoben, set off for his work placement in Brazil on September 12, 2013. In his final report, Florian explains the cultural differences and describes the working world in Brazil.
I flew from Munich via Paris to Sao Paolo, and set off from here to Campinas, which was to be my new home for the next three months. I shared an apartment in Cambuí with fellow student Krapscha Clemens who was there to write his Master thesis. During the first three weeks I observed a huge variety of process sequences and material flows at the Villares Metals steel mill in Sumaré.
Rapid familiarization phase
Although I had some problems with the language at the beginning, these were quickly overcome. After this familiarization phase, I focused mainly on the subject of reducing tap-to-tap times. This gave me a deeper and more practical understanding of how an electric arc furnace works. I don’t just mean in terms of steel production; I also had a closer look at slag metallurgy and the refractory lining. After theoretical and practical work on the electric arc furnace, I also took part in a “Semana Kaizen”, a lean management tool currently being implemented at Villares.
New findings thanks to lean management
The “Semana Kaizen” immediately opens up another viewpoint, as well as offering a better understanding of the safety aspects and the 6S. At the time “lean management” was just another, incomprehensible term. However, a very well organized seminar explained it well. After spending some time examining the premelting phase, I then moved on to focus on the technology for the continuous casting of steel grades. Continuous casting is a fascinating process and I really regret not having more time to examine the subject in greater detail. All in all, my time at the steel mill was extremely instructive; the range of diverse views on a variety of subjects was most striking, and you quickly realized that you weren’t in Europe.
Thanks to the friendships I was quickly able to make with work colleagues, filling my free time was easy. The Brazilians are a welcoming nation, giving visitors a whole range of insights into the way of life and culture of this South American country. Whether football, Brazilian music or the much talked-about “Churrasco”, Brazilians are very good at turning anything into a huge celebration. The gap between rich and poor is still very large in this country.
Even so, this shouldn’t stop you from coming to Brazil. You simply have to be open minded if you’re going to become acquainted with a new culture. From my own standpoint, these three months were hugely positive, and something I’ll take with me always. As well as the professional and metallurgical knowledge I gained, I was also able to benefit greatly in terms of language and social understanding. It was a wonderful time, and I’d like to take this chance to thank everyone who supported me and accompanied me during this time.