Hi! My name is Nicolai, and I am one of the two Engineering Graduates that joined this year. In this post, I would like to tell you about my 4th week in the William Demant Graduate Programme.
In the last week of September, it has become a tradition for new Engineering and Operations Graduates to go on a week-long field trip to the production facilities in Poland, which are run by the William Demant company DGS.
In the outskirts of the Polish city of Szczecin, there is a little village called Mierzyn, and in the outskirts of Mierzyn, the factory arises in a very calm urban-rural area, only 2 hours from Berlin. This is where most parts for our hearing instruments are manufactured, assembled, tested and prepared for production, in collaboration with R&D teams in Denmark. The facility also includes prototyping labs and a huge distribution center, so definitely an Engineering and Operations wonderland.
All the activities and tours around the facility were planned and tailored to us Engineering and Operations Graduates. The engineers responsible for showing us around were very welcoming and excited about showing what their daily work looks like, and especially how quality is minutiously ensured in each step. If you have seen the ‘How It’s Made’ documentaries from Discovery Channel, I truly felt like I was in one of these.
Step by step, we learnt how our hearing instruments are made, and how the whole support system around the devices interacts in each phase of the development, but also during logistics and repairs. Most of these steps are carried out at the factory in Mierzyn: from incoming orders and customer support, 3D scanning and 3D printing of the custom hearing aids, to injection moulding of plastic parts, assembling, tests and returns from the customers. This was a good way to clearly see the bigger picture of the extensive architecture of the hearing devices that we are working with.
As an engineer, not being close to the production can sometimes be frustrating. It is important to understand how good design for manufacturing is only possible through communication between manufacturers and developers. Even though it is possible to make prototypes at the headquarter in Denmark, it is always a very different situation when a device goes into mass production, which is the specialty of the factory in Mierzyn. Luckily, the facilities in Poland are not too far away from Copenhagen, and now that we have also experienced the production first-hand, it is easier to follow their processes and requirements.
One of the highlights of the trip was when we had to assemble our own In-The-Ear hearing aid. This was not an easy task. Fitting all the electronic components into the device and making sure it looked good and neat was quite challenging. Especially soldering by looking through a microscope seemed much easier when our Polish colleagues were doing it. Let us just say that it did not go at all as fast when we were trying. But in the end, after many hours of assembling, each of us had a functional personal hearing aid. Great success!
All in all, this was a nice way to end our first month in the Graduate Programme, now even better prepared to meet the challenges of our first rotation.
Take care, and do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!
Nicolai Domingo Nielsen