If you are looking to build relationships, draw in new investors, and create greater confidence in your ability to deliver both product quality and numbers, a plant tour may be just what your company needs. A successful plant tour is an excellent opportunity to showcase your facilities, equipment, and amazing staff, but “successful” is the operative word.
After all, regardless of how great your team members are and how well-run your plant floor is, factories and manufacturing facilities aren’t particularly suited for giving quality tours. With large, dangerous equipment and a loud, noisy environment full of activity, delivering a solid presentation that everyone on the tour can hear and appreciate can be difficult at best.
Here, we’ll break down the dos and don’ts of plant tours. We’ll go over the importance of good communication and provide valuable tips on giving the best possible tour of your manufacturing facility. We’ll help you to make a great impression on guests that they can share with others in person or through social media.
What Is a Plant Tour or Plant Visitation?
A plant tour involves a group of people, such as clients, investors, shareholders, or executives, taking a guided walking tour of your manufacturing plant in an effort to assess, learn, or share knowledge related to your manufacturing processes. Visitors gain a first-hand look and up-front understanding of how products are made and how the production line works in a way spreadsheets and presentations simply cannot convey.
What Should You Do Before Giving a Plant Tour?
If you want to truly stand behind your company name and gain the trust of potential clients by allowing plant visits and giving guided tours, you can’t just open the doors and begin letting visitors in. There are certain things you should do prior to giving a plant tour in order to make the best possible impression.
Know Your Target Audience
First and foremost, get to know your target audience and their objective for wanting to visit your plant and observe your manufacturing process. Knowing this will allow you to better understand the aspects of your plant that will interest the group the most. It will also let you identify specific plant features you may want to highlight, questions to expect, and any potential safety hazards.
Here are some important questions to ask when getting to know your plant visitors:
- What company or organization do they represent?
- What is their role within the company?
- What is their reason for touring your facility?
- What, if any, are their production expectations?
Answering these questions and any others pertinent to the visit will help you better prepare and deliver a better experience and outcome.
Define the Purpose of the Tour
Next, you need to define the purpose of the tour. Is the tour for a client who wants an inside look at the plant or factory that produces their merchandise? If this is the case, you may want to showcase your machinery and even show samples of their products being made right before their eyes. If it’s for an investor, you would use a different tour script and talking points to sell the value of your plant while guiding them through.
Regardless of the purpose of a plant tour, prepare to answer the questions your guests are most likely to ask. These questions will vary depending on the group that’s visiting your facility.
You must exhibit professionalism and effective communication on the manufacturing floor every step of the way, both before and during the tour. This involves setting up training programs and walk-throughs well in advance. You’ll need to script and practice what each tour guide should say, inspect safety equipment, and ensure proper signage. You’ll also need to have safety glasses, headsets, and name badges ready to use.
Professionalism and preparation go hand in hand, and a lack of either can decrease your chances of impressing current investors or future clients. So, make sure to:
- Alert the plant manager and staff of an upcoming tour.
- Perform a top-to-bottom cleaning and safety inspection.
- Dress for success with company attire in neutral business colors and with branded logos, if possible.
- Have enough safety supplies, protective gear, and product samples on hand.
- Provide refreshments and snacks before or after the tour.
By taking the necessary time to properly plan and prepare for a plant tour, you will exhibit your professionalism and increase the odds of making the visit a successful one.
Consider Using a Tour Guide Communication System
Factories are anything but quiet. With machines everywhere and just as many people working them, they aren’t exactly the best setting for having visitors and giving tours. Sure, seeing is one thing, but there’s no point in giving a tour if guests can’t hear any explanations of what they are seeing.
What’s the answer to this noise issue? Well, most manufacturing companies throughout North America and the rest of the world use high-quality two-way communication headsets or two-way earpieces and microphones, otherwise known as a tour guide system. These systems are designed to allow for seamless communication between tour guides and tour participants, especially in noisy conditions that are less than ideal.
What Are Some Tips for Giving a Successful Plant Tour?
The exact steps of conducting a plant tour will vary according to the facility, the guests, and the tour objectives. Here are some general tips to help ensure your plant tour is a success.
Organize and Clean Before the Visit
Appearance matters when you’re receiving guests. This is especially true if you’re hosting visitors who are used to working in corporate environments. So, give plant staff plenty of time before the visit to make sure everything from the shop floor up is impeccably organized and clean.
Test Equipment Before Going ‘Live’
In addition to making sure your facility is spic and span, you should also make sure it is in tip-top shape by testing all the equipment before your visitors arrive. After all, there’s nothing worse than something breaking down when you are trying to demonstrate your production capabilities.
While you’re at it, test and get to know the wireless communication system you will be using as well. Say your name, recite a speech, and do whatever you can to become as comfortable with the equipment as possible. Doing so will save you some embarrassment and boost your confidence when it’s time to go “live” in front of people you are trying to impress.
Check Compliance Regulations
Before you let visitors enter your facility, make sure every piece of operating machinery and equipment is not only in good working order but is also in compliance with federal regulations. If you haven’t already, review all environmental and safety regulations, and then check and check again to make sure your facility is in accordance with every single one. This is especially important when giving a tour to health and safety inspectors, board members, and elected officials.
It’s important to provide guests with proper safety equipment. This will include safety glasses, two-way headsets, helmets, gloves, and whatever else they may need for a safe and enjoyable plant visit.
Be a Good Host
Selecting the perfect person to guide guests throughout their plant tour is crucial. Ideally, the person you choose should be engaged, comfortable with public speaking, and extremely knowledgeable about the company, the plant, and how it operates in order to answer any questions visitors may have.
Communicate Clearly and Effectively
Ensuring your tour guide can be heard and able to effectively communicate with visitors throughout the plant tour is also extremely important. Manufacturing communication headsets are a common solution for protecting guests’ hearing while allowing for effective communication and conversations to take place.
Introduce Key Members of the Team
Even if you’re working with a short time frame, throughout the tour, take some time to introduce key team members. While equipment and processes are an integral part of any plant tour, identifying and introducing specific employees who play a vital role in plant operations will add a personal touch to the tour experience and make it more enjoyable and memorable overall.
Once the tour is over, remember to follow up with visitors by sending thank-you cards. Doing so may help to seal the deal on a new manufacturing contract. At the very least, it will help to maintain existing professional relationships and build new ones.
It might be interesting to read also our guide on how to do a Gemba walk.
What Are the Benefits of a Plant Tour?
As you surely know by now, there are several benefits of hosting a plant tour. Some of the most important ones include:
- Enhance Relationships
- Improve Communication
- Share and Gain Knowledge
Hosting a plant tour is a terrific way to build strategic relationships with customers, suppliers, investors, and others important to your business’s success.
Effective client and supplier relationships require excellent communication. Hosting clients and letting them see how you operate humanizes the communication between you and helps to move the relationship beyond a purely transactional point of view.
A plant tour provides visitors with first-hand knowledge of how products are constructed and assembled, allows them to talk with experts face-to-face, witness final quality checks, and take in a lot of information they would otherwise not have known.
With added knowledge about the products, you make and the materials and processes you use to produce them, potential customers and investors can better assess your plant’s capabilities, eco-friendliness, and work environment.
There’s no better time to negotiate with current and potential clients than shortly after a plant or factory tour. It’s the perfect time to ask questions, alleviate concerns, and hash out the details of a deal.
See more about the benefits of plant tours.
Frequently Asked Questions About Plant Tours
What Is the Purpose of a Factory Visit?
A factory tour is an excellent way of building face-to-face relationships with customers or investors and negotiating better pricing and business outcomes.
What Do You Wear to a Plant Tour?
Whether giving or taking a plant tour, participants should wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts, and closed-toed shoes with good traction. No jewelry or other loose clothing items should be worn for safety reasons.
What Kind of Plant Tours Can You Do?
Plant tours typically involve customers, executives, investors, and legislators who tour manufacturing facilities to assess, learn, or share information related to manufacturing processes. As such, the three primary types of plant tours are assessment tours, learning tours, and teaching tours.
What Do You Check in a Factory Visit?
If you are hosting a plant tour, you should inspect the equipment to make sure it is operating properly and check the entire facility for cleanliness, organization, and safety. If you are taking a tour, you should check all of the above as well to make sure you are doing business with a manufacturer who takes pride in their facility, their workers, and the products they make.
What Are the Advantages of Using Communication Headsets in a Plant Tour?
Communication headsets protect guests’ hearing, allow for conversations between guides and guests in noisy environments, and display the professionalism of the manufacturer giving the tour.
Hosting a tour can seem daunting if you’ve never opened your doors to customers or investors before, but with a bit of planning and work, you’ll have not one but many successful plant tours ahead!