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Opinion: How to plan a tour of an agricultural or food-processing facility

As we settle into a post-Covid way of life, facility tours are likely up and running again for many food and beverage manufacturers. Rick Farrell, president of

Plant Tours, shares some words of wisdom on how to plan a successful tour for visitors and employees. Agricultural or food-processing facilities are likely to run several tours a year for visitors or new employees. Visitors could be investors who want to know how a farm or food facility works, or people interested in a company's farming and manufacturing processes. Meanwhile, employees need the tour because they have to know how things operate and their responsibilities. Below, are some tips that can be used to plan for an impactful tour. An effective tour guide system Conducting a tour at such sites can be difficult because it is usually noisy from the ongoing processes, making it hard for people to hear. Tour guide systems can be one-way or two-way, depending on whom you take through the facility. It is mainly one-way when dealing with visitors, but if it is employees or new hires, a two-way system allows for interactions. This can be achieved by implementing an effective tour guide system. This communication system consists of a headset transmitter, receiver and handheld or built-in microphone. When planning a tour of these facilities, one question many people ask is "how does a tour guide system work?" Simply speak into the microphone and the audio goes through the transmitter. The receiver is part of the system that receives the voice from the transmitter, allowing the audience to hear through their headsets or earphones. Some transmitters come with belt clips for ease of use and portability. Since these are portable systems, a facility will need to have a charging case or station to ensure it has the charge to operate in the event of an unplanned tour. A suitcase-style storage unit makes it easier to transport the equipment while charging it. Understand the tour’s objective It's crucial to know what people being hosted want to learn, want to talk about and want to see. For example, investors of a start-up might be interested in the technological or manufacturing aspects of how a new product is created. While a brand looking for a new ingredient supplier may be interested in sampling certain products or exploring how these ingredients are cultivated/created. Have an itinerary Once the tour's objective is established, create an itinerary around it so that the company and visitors are on the same page. This ensures that everyone is in the facility on time and the tour is more organised. It also helps to know what parts of the facility to stop at and in what order. Practice the things on the itinerary before the tour, and distribute it among employees to make the tour more coordinated. Inform your employees in advance While the tour's goal is for visitors to see what the plant operations look like in a day, warning employees of the tour in advance goes a long way in ensuring it runs smoothly. First, it gives them time to plan their activities so that they do not interrupt the tour. If they need to postpone any activity, they will make preparations and take the right measures to ensure it does not mess up any other production activities. It also makes the tour more successful, for example, by being quieter or avoiding a particular place at a specific time. Employees will also ensure that all equipment and machinery are running as they should to prevent any mishaps or accidents. Facility managers can look to make improvements like a paint job or cleaning up to make the facility more aesthetically pleasing and safe. Finally, if employees are needed to speak to the visitors, letting them know in advance makes sure they prepare something relevant to say and also prepares them psychologically. Have information booklets While tours provide a lot of information about a processing plant, it is impossible to go over everything. Therefore, information booklets are essential to help visitors know more about certain functions that were addressed or those that weren't discussed. The information booklet also contains more information about the facility, such as details on the products produced and financial statistics. Have a section for interaction After stopping at every destination and explaining the process, ensure an open forum is set up for visitors to ask questions or interact. This makes the tour feel more natural for them and fulfilling. When planning a food processing facility tour, the goal is to ensure each visitor leaves informed and educated. Ensuring an effective sound communication system is in place will make the tour organised. And last, but certainly not least, it's fundamental to ensure the safety and comfort of facility visitors at all times.


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