Why (and How) to Take a Plant Tour

Upton, David (1997) Why (and How) to Take a Plant Tour. Harvard Business Review, 75 (3). pp. 97-106.

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In recent years, corporate managers have recognized how manufacturing capabilities contribute to a company's overall strategic strength. But many of them identify those capabilities only by accident - as a result of chance conversations with plant managers or operations specialists. Consequently, they often do not have the information necessary to cultivate, shape, and exploit their company's manufacturing capabilities. But as plants develop, they need guidance to build capabilities that meet current and future needs. Plant tours can be a powerful way to provide plants with that kind of direction. Almost everyone who leads, works for, or interacts with a manufacturing company can benefit from seeing a factory firsthand, David Upton and Stephen Macadam advise. For example, plant visits allow senior executives to understand a site's performance potential, to assess a competitor, or to rally the frontline workforce. Shop floor operators can assess another plant's operations and apply what they've learned in their own factories. But even people who know that plant tours are valuable can find putting them to effective use difficult. First, unclear objectives often turn touring into tourism. Second, many people lack an organizing framework with which to structure observations and accelerate learning. Upton and Macadam show visitors how to set clear objectives and apply an organizing framework in order to make sense of what they see and hear on a plant tour. In this way, visitors will develop a deep understanding of the plant's manufacturing capabilities - and how best to exploit them.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Industrial Tours; Business planning; Industrial management; Customer services
Subject(s): Operations management
Centre: Faculty of Operations Management
Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2012 16:20
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2015 14:06
URI: http://eureka.sbs.ox.ac.uk/id/eprint/2107

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