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Alabama: Sweet Home Away From Home

2023-01-09 | 

The two apprentices Lea and Fabian had the unique opportunity to complete their internship abroad at voestalpine Railway Systems Nortrak. In Birmingham/Alabama, they were not only able to gain experience, but additionally make new friends.

Even after the end of their one-month internship at voestalpine Railway Systems Nortrak LLC in Birmingham, Fabian from Zeltweg and Lea from Kapfenberg can hardly believe their luck:

It really was a unique experience that we were able to have there. We were received in an incredibly friendly manner, and everyone gave us great support at work as well.

The opportunity to get to know the working world of voestalpine Railway Systems in the southern states was one that the two did not want to miss. Fabian immediately found himself in familiar territory in production:

Railway Systems in Birmingham may make different products than we do at voestalpine Turnout Technology in Zeltweg, but the machines and processes are the same.

For Lea, who is being trained at voestalpine Böhler Welding in Kapfenberg, there was a lot that was new: "There are departments here that we don't have at all in Styria, such as one for design engineering, plus there are American peculiarities in business."

But the American openness to new things made it easy for the Styrian duo to quickly find their way around the unfamiliar working environment. The Styrian apprentices have their dedicated host family to thank for the fact that they were also able to get to know a lot of Birmingham and the surrounding area away from the plant. The host family, in turn, has close ties with voestalpine Railway Systems Nortrak: The host father works there himself. The duo thanked the family for their great commitment with culinary delicacies from Styria: "We left out the Swiss stone pine schnapps because of possible difficulties at customs, but the pumpkin seed oil was a complete culinary success!"   

"Host father" Chet Ramsey on his fosterlings:

For me, it was wonderful to have young people in the house once again. It's just nice to learn about other cultures and find common ground. We tried to show them a little bit of the South on the weekends. My goodness, I had already forgotten how much you can eat when you are young. I gained a few pounds myself because it would have been rude to let them eat alone.   

Fabian began his stay by spending a few days with the manufacturing engineer and learning our process flow. He then moved through our facility shadowing different employees, while gaining an understanding of their roles. Because of his welding experience, we allowed him to review our welding procedures and give feedback. He then spent a day practicing and even took our welding test. We sent them off and he passed with flying colors. He shadowed the outside track guys while withstanding the medium temps of 95F/35C From there, Adam our CNC programmer showed him how we take models and write our CNC programs. He impressed us both when he started talking G codes for the machine. Fabian was always observant, asked good questions and provided input.  He made many friends during this process.

Lea spent the first few days with HR and myself.  She spent a day with Michael (HR) during new hire orientation. Taylor one of our design engineers taught her how designs and parts list are generated and Tracy our purchasing manager showed her how we ordered the needed parts based on demand. She then moved into our tool room where we stock our consumable products. Craig showed her how he maintained, ordered and stocked these areas. She even made a few pick up runs with Craig in our 2004 Ford ranger. Not sure the passenger seat had been used in years. Bob and David in our shipping area also allowed her to shadow them in their daily duties of shipping and receiving. Brittney our QA clerk showed her how we maintain our QA documentation while greeting visitors as they enter. She quickly was saying “Welcome to Nortrak”. Lea made many friends in all areas. She is missed by them all and I am ask daily about them both.