How can plant tours be more meaningful?

Answered by Dick Gorelick

Many suppliers and prospective suppliers have invited me to visit their plants. Those tours I've taken are all alike - basically, a sales pitch that emphasizes equipment and production capabilities. How can those visits be made more meaningful?

A visit to the facility of a new or existing print supplier can provide you with a wealth of technical and non-technical information. But only if you plan the visit, communicate your expectations and objectives, and view the visit as an important opportunity to gather information, rather than a semi-social occasion.

Before the visit, clearly communicate that you want to see and discuss non-product, as well as product, capabilities. This may involve one-on-one discussions with the customer service representative and delivery person, as well as members of management. The visit should be planned as an occasion for you to discuss the particular concerns of you and your company, including:

A well-planned facility tour can prevent unpleasant surprises weeks, months, and even years later. This type of visit is valuable for both existing suppliers as well as prospective suppliers, especially if there has been change of personnel servicing your account.
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