Dos and Don’ts of organizing a manufacturing tour

How to deliver a great tour that builds a lifelong valued relationship

organizational tour

organizational tour

“Know your audience” is the first rule of thumb for any effort at communication. Organizing a tour (organizational tour) of a manufacturing facility is no exception. In simplest terms, a tour designed for the general public will have some very different objectives than a custom tour designed for employees or for a group of industry professionals. The former is largely a marketing tool, designed to build brand engagement. The latter is much more focused on education and transferring practical knowledge.

And yet, those seeking to develop a “hard-hat tour” for purposes of professional information or education may well learn a thing or two from those more entertainment-oriented tourist attractions. For example, keeping people engaged is critical – professionals are human, after all, and their attention can wander without a little entertainment value. And increasing company loyalty among employees, or building your brand reputation among current or potential business partners, is just as important as doing so for consumers. So let’s use public tours as a framework for some do’s and don’ts when it comes to organizing a private tour of a manufacturing facility.

 

Don’t: Include everything that might be interesting, entertaining, or useful.

Do: Articulate your narrative in advance and use it to screen every step of the tour.

There’s a lot of information – verbal and visual – flowing on any tour. Whether a member of the public or an industry professional, people can better process all of this if they’re given a framework. A good tour is like a good business meeting – it’s objectives are laid out in advance, and all potential stops on the tour along with the accompanying voiceover are screened based on whether or not they support those objectives.

 

Don’t: Overdo the numbers and statistics.

Do: Focus on processes and how they’re evolving.

It’s all well and good to impress people with references like the number of football fields that could fit on the production floor.But history has much to teach us about the true utility of a plant tour. Though that history goes back centuries, the early 1900s were the heyday of such tours. Mass production in general and the assembly line in particular were replacing home-made and/or artisan-made goods. Manufacturers used plant tours to answer consumers questions and address any discomfort with new products made in new ways. Professionals touring a facility likewise are more interested in where things are going – they already know where things have been for organizational tour.

 

Don’t: Overtly “sell” the brand, the product, or the company. 

Do: Treat even the informational aspects of the tour as a relationship-building tool.

Your audience has already engaged with the firm simply by having decided to take the tour; messages that seem to overtly promote the firm or the product aren’t necessary, and they may well be counter-productive. Instead, by focusing on the relationship between your company on the one hand and the tourists, employees, or industry professionals on the other, you will reap more long-term benefits. That includes benefits to the bottom line. Whether striving to build Customer Lifetime Value or Employee Lifetime Value, positive experiences and the feelings they engender are the key. A well-designed and executed manufacturing plant tour has a significant role to play in creating good feelings about the brand and the company.

 

Don’t: Have a rigid “hands-off” policy.

Do: Make the experience more memorable and more learning-oriented by letting people see things up close and even touch.

Of course concerns for physical safety and/or equipment damage must draw a hard boundary around some potential points of physical contact. But a tour participant who can examine tools and devices, labels and promotional items, or chips and components will remember more and retain the halo of your brand longer. The same experiences that will drive word-of-mouth among consumers will reinforce learning among professionals.

 

Don’t: Assume people can hear you in a noisy plant environment.

Do: Rely on electronic communication technology to ensure everyone can hear clearly no matter what the conditions.

This one may seem obvious, but many tours will actually take their chances with spotty communication. There’s no need for any participant to miss a single word when the tour makes use of a tour guide communication system that equips everyone with an easy-to-wear headset as well as a transceiver and receiver that puts the speaker’s voice directly in the listener’s ear. Such systems eliminate the frustration of problems hearing on a noisy plant floor with distance and high ceilings posing a great challenge to communication and leave everyone feeling satisfied with a better all-around experience.

Just as tourists (organizational tour) walk away from a public tour with a fresh understanding of the brand, employees or industry professionals with return to their desks with new, practical insights into your processes, your business, and your future – because they’ll have heard your message loud and clear.

 

Author: Rick Farrell, President, Plant-Tours.com

Rick is North America’s foremost expert in improving manufacturing group communication, education, training and group hospitality processes. He has over 40 years of group hospitality experience, most recently serving as President of Plant-Tours.com for the last 18 years.  He has provided consulting services with the majority of Fortune 500 industrial corporations improving group communication dynamics of all types in manufacturing environments.

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