If someone from the general public (or a key prospect) walked through your manufacturing facility, would they say “Oh cool!” or “Oh my!”? Many companies are missing out on opportunities to close business and attract new employees because they aren’t “Tour Ready.”

Industry leaders are working to get the general public excited about manufacturing in the U.S. again. Through manufacturing days and other events, manufacturers are starting to bring people into their space to stimulate dialogue and shift perceptions of the industry. This is pulling back the curtain of our economic engine.

There are polished-concrete-floor manufacturing facilities that run almost fully autonomously using robotics to mill, turn, and assemble parts, while other facilities with rough concrete or dirt floors use manual labor to grind, press, and assemble all sorts of machines and parts. Both types of facilities are the heartbeat of the U.S., sustaining the livelihood of millions of families and keeping communities healthy.

Lean Manufacturing and Tour Readiness

Whether plants operate using automation or manual processes, Lean Manufacturing principles are guiding companies to increase safety and efficiency. Lean manufacturing traces its roots back to the 1930s when Henry Ford and Toyota revolutionized the automobile manufacturing process. Lean principles help manufacturers look at their systems and processes to find ways to improve people, processes, and products through a focus on continuous improvement and quality control. These continuous improvements are creating safer and more efficient work environments and products.

A part of Lean is being Tour Ready. When your company is tour ready, both your people and your facility are ready to impress prospective clients and employees. Where would you rather work: In a safe and efficient environment or one that looks haphazardly thrown together? Where would you rather have your children work?

Cambridge Air Solutions, formerly Cambridge Engineering, a manufacturer of industrial HVAC solutions in St. Louis, MO, has redefined what it means to be “Tour Ready”. They have had over 4,000 people over the past 5 years tour their facility regularly, including clients, suppliers, prospective employees and members of the community.  These tours allow people to learn about their Lean manufacturing initiatives, meet engaged employees, and learn how Cambridge is transforming their industry with engaged employees and products that provide comfortable working environments for America’s hard-working people.

“Being tour ready has been a game-changer for Cambridge over the past 5 years.  Before it would take us several days or weeks to prepare for a visit and today, everything is ready every single day. The growth of our people through the process as storytellers and owners of the business is one of the often-overlooked benefits.” says Marc Braun, President of Cambridge Air Solutions.

How to Get Your Facility “Tour Ready”

The steps to getting “Tour Ready” are simple. Not easy, but simple. It takes time and focus but can improve employee morale, boost customer engagement, and increase your closing rate for prospective customers.

  • Create an outline for your tour.​ Decide what areas of your business you want to highlight. What functions, capabilities, machines, and processes are worth sharing?
  • Empower people to “own” their areas. ​Start focusing on what the areas look like and select a team member to be “in charge” of improvements to the area.
  • Bring your team together. ​Bring the area leaders together to decide what “Tour Ready” means for their areas. Then allocate budget and time for improvements and a target readiness date.
  • Practice on family and friends. ​Invite some family members of employees into your plant for some test tours. Do these in conjunction with an employee appreciation lunch or BBQ!
  • Get involved in the community. ​Reach out to a local high school or trade school and invite them to take a tour and see what questions they ask.

Results speak for themselves. At goBRANDgo!, we recently worked with a company that had a low rate of closing prospects after their facility tour—just about 15%. To help them identify the problem, we had them take us on the tour and we saw why they were struggling. It was a haphazard approach, walking us from receiving to shipping and pointing at different machines, instead of an information session on what made this company special and unique and what they were innovating for their clients. We worked together to implement a few changes, and they closed 75% of the following prospects they gave tours to in the following 8 weeks.

What would being “Tour Ready” do for your employees, your business, and your bottom line?

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