Workers in the best plants clearly know who their customers are – both internal and external – and make customer satisfaction their primary goal. What’s more, they understand that it’s their job to make tours exceptional experiences so visitors leave with resoundingly positive feelings about the facility. Such care for customers, or lack thereof, is readily apparent in a brief plant tour. You should be welcomed to the plant and given an overview of its layout, workforce, customers, and products. Quality and customer satisfaction ratings should be prominently posted. And try asking an employee, “Where does your product go next?” If you hear, “Ford” or “John, over on line 6,” you can rate the plant higher on this measure than if you hear, “I put it in this bucket and I don’t know what happens to it after that.”
Safety, Environment, Cleanliness, and Order
In a clean and orderly plant, parts are easy to find, inventory is easy to count or estimate, and products move safely and efficiently. The plant should be well lit, the air quality good, and noise levels low. A visual labeling system should clearly mark inventory, tools, processes, and flow. A short plant tour will readily reveal how successfully the company attends to all these factors.
All component parts should be treated with equal care. Many companies go to great lengths to keep expensive parts in order while giving short shrift to low-cost ones like labels or fasteners. That habit can be costly. Indeed, when we were making seats at Johnson Controls, we never lost a seat back or cushion, but occasionally the bolts that joined the recliner mechanisms to the back and cushions were left off or not available. We couldn’t ship a seat that was missing a bolt (or collect payment on it, naturally), so a single bolt was essentially as Valuable as a larger, more expensive part.