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Supply chain management junior Will Humphries is completing the third and final co-op
semester with Mercedes in Stuttgart, Germany. He did his first two semesters with
Mercedes at the company's manufacturing plant near Tuscasloosa.
In the last of his three co-op semesters with Mercedes-Benz, supply chain management junior Will Humphries is living the dream in Stuttgart, Germany. As a member of the Inbound Logistics Transport and Network Planning team, he helps his co-workers facilitate the fastest and most efficient ways to deliver parts from European suppliers to the Mercedes factories.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was young to live and work abroad,” said Humphries, whose interest in other cultures began with his family hosting international exchange students at their home in Northwest Alabama more than a dozen years ago. “I was always super jealous of their language skills, which I didn’t have then.”
At Auburn, Humphries decided to minor in German and credits the German Club for helping him become fluent and prepare for the cultural differences he’d encounter when he arrived in Stuttgart in January 2023.
According to Humphries, on a typical day at Mercedes, he gathers and analyzes monthly parts’ shipment data from various suppliers to see if those deliveries can be done more efficiently.
“I do a lot of optimizing and talking to suppliers on how to fix that,” he said. “Getting all these different parts—from bolts to steering wheels—delivered from [multiple] suppliers is a really difficult and complicated process. It’s a lot of work, but it’s good experience.”
Prior to working in Stuttgart, Humphries completed his first two co-op semesters (fall 2021 and summer 2022) at the Mercedes manufacturing plant near Tuscaloosa, where the GLE and GLS sport utility vehicles are made.
Working full-time in the logistics centers, he helped ensure that the parts from the suppliers arrived at the plant on time to meet production needs. Last summer, he was specifically responsible for ensuring the suppliers received back their empty dunnage that they originally shipped the parts in.
The Mercedes co-op experience has been particularly rewarding for Humphries given his interests in the automotive industry and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
“I see how Mercedes is making such big strides to lower emissions in their vehicles,” he said. “I’m benefitting from something more than just helping make a car. There’s a bigger goal we’re working towards.”
According to Joshlyn Bess, internship and professional experience coordinator in the Department of Supply Chain Management (SCM), Humphries should be applauded for being pro-active in making his overseas work experience happen.
“Will has truly shown how to optimize and leverage his experience with Mercedes. His story is a great example of a company working with a student to make [the work abroad] come to fruition,” Bess said.
Humphries encourages other Harbert students to consider doing a co-op.
“With all my experience, when I talk to employers who want to hire college students, they tell me that I look like someone who has been in the workforce for five years,” he said.
However, doing a co-op abroad is a lot different than doing a study abroad where you travel with a group of fellow students and much of the travel administration and logistics are handled for you.
“Living and working in Europe is amazing, but the life of an ex-pat is not as easy as people think it is,” he said, recalling how he navigated the visa and other paperwork requirements on his own.
There’s also the language issue.
“Sometimes you can’t truly express yourself in many ways because you’re speaking your second language, Humphries said. “There will be times when you feel alone, but you can’t grow unless you put yourself into uncomfortable situations.”
When he returns to Auburn in July 2023, Humphries will have one more year of classes to complete before he graduates in May 2024. Like many co-op students, he’ll likely receive a full-time offer of employment from his co-op company.
“I love it here in Germany, but I also have my family back home,” he said, contemplating where he’d like to work after he graduates.
His experience, undoubtedly, provides him with many options.
For more information on the Auburn co-op program, click here.
Pros and cons of doing a co-op
|Source: Joshlyn Bess, Harbert College of Business internship and professional experience coordinator in the Department of Supply Chain Management.