Lean

Virtual Factory Tours on YouTube

By Jon Miller Updated on September 26th, 2022

Keep your chin up, global manufacturing! Even though new factory orders dipped recently to record lows, there is plenty of reason to be positive.

  1. We are near the bottom. There may be another 6 months of tough times but it will be a slow and steady climb upwards.
  2. We have been overproducing less. . More companies have been using lean manufacturing to streamline their operations and build just in time supply chains. This means that unlike in other recessions there is less inventory in the system to burn off and the natural demand will come back sooner.
  3. Help is on the way. Although it’s not clear how much of soon-to-be President Obama’s $700+ billion economic stimulus package will go towards infrastructure, construction, banking or the automotive industry, we can expect a boost in new orders to various manufacturing industries that provide goods to these stimulated sectors.
  4. Absent the noise, hear the signal. This is a great time for leaders of manufacturing organizations to guide their teams in reflecting on the voice of their customers, employees, and overall trends in technologies, society, and markets. Figure out what really matters. There is always good business to be had by those willing to follow the 80-20 rule, face the facts and learn.
  5. Manufacturing is still how things are made. This may seem obvious but when you think about the stunning changes we have seen in the last two decades in the businesses of telephony, finance, news, advertising, and many others, it is reassuring that the fundamentals of manufacturing stand firm.

In celebration of manufacturing, I invite all of you to take a few minutes to take a virtual factory tour. There are countless videos just like these on YouTube. I’ve selected a few that might interest you:

Firefighters Helmet

I always thought these things were either shot from fiberglass or formed out of metal. This video is also good for a quick waste identification exercise.

Potato chips (crisps)

Watch the journey from a wholesome potato to popular snack food.

Helicopters

Now for something complex. Helicopters.

Wooden Barrels

Maybe it’s just me but this seems like an awfully fixed-asset-intensive method for making wooden barrels.

Continuous Processing

These videos all seem skewed towards continuous processing industries and manual crafts work. Perhaps food and beverage (continuous processing), musical instruments, or apparel (armor, fireman’s hats), are day-to-day objects far more familiar to people than mechanical equipment, industrial chillers, or hydraulic components. It is also true that the flow of a one-person operation (crafts work) and the flow through continuous processing equipment are much easier to follow on video. It does give the impression though that manufacturing is either done mainly through machines or all by humans.

Where’s the Waste?

It would be good to see more of the human interaction with the process, including the waste and boredom that people working in manufacturing have to tolerate. These virtual factory tours give the average viewer the impression that manufacturing is almost fully value-added, which is far from the truth. Many of these videos demonstrate batch even when it could be avoided. It’s a shame that the “how things are made” series doesn’t include more segments of, “…and then the cut materials remain in the queue for 5 to15 days until they are needed by the next process.” And so forth, making for a more realistic perspective on how things are actually made. If television and YouTube viewers realized just how screwed up some of our manufacturing processes are, maybe they would rise up as informed consumers and demand improvement, because the other great thing about manufacturing is that it is a very visual industry and the shenanigans become visible and addressable almost immediately, unlike some other industries I won’t mention.

Bear up, global manufacturing! You don’t often get the credit you deserve, but we need you.

Want to See More Virtual Tours?

If you want to see even more virtual tours, including interviews by the people directly involved, be sure to watch Gemba Academy’s Virtual Tours videos.


  1. Rob

    January 5, 2009 - 3:45 am
    Reply

    As with most “reality TV” judicious editing takes place to make it fit the (limited) attention span of viewers.
    As Marc says:
    “the show really focuses on automation and high-speed production. The show doesn’t give the same kind of focus on and affection for the employees of these companies …”
    http://www.leanblog.org/2006/01/more-on-tv-show-how-its-made.html
    Interesting but flawed. Mind you, it beats Friends (which I can’t stand!)

  2. Jason

    January 5, 2009 - 10:02 am
    Reply

    “Facory” should be “Factory.”

  3. Eric

    January 5, 2009 - 1:54 pm
    Reply

    Why are we near the bottom?

  4. Jon Miller

    January 5, 2009 - 2:05 pm
    Reply

    Hi Eric
    As in all economics it’s speculation. I have some data but not allowed to cite it. I will tell you another secret: if we all believe it’s safe to go out and spend, it will be.

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