Each year, our editors take two full days to review the hundreds of products that we've covered in the previous 12 months and measure them against the industry. Our choices for the most innovative and competitive products of that year become the Construction Equipment Top 100.
Over the next several months, editors visit manufacturers to present a Top 100 crystal to the winners. In some cases, we travel to the factory in which the product is designed and made. There's great satisfaction in meeting the folks who engineer and build these innovative products and hearing them applaud the presentation, but we also learn a lot about the manufacturer when we tour the plant.
Occasionally, our tour will coincide with a group of customers or dealers that is visiting on the same day. Manufacturers often offer plant tours to key customers, usually upon the invitation of their dealer or distributor. It is always surprising, though, to hear how few customers request a tour for themselves.
Dealer sales staffs use the tour as a sales tool. One manufacturer's tour guide tells us that his company relishes the opportunity to show customers how their products are put together. He takes great pleasure in showing the art and science of taking sheets of steel and engineering them into some of the most powerful machines around. Most equipment users, he says, don't fully comprehend the engineering. "It all gets covered up" by the paint, he says.
Equipment managers and purchasers should take advantage of factory tours as buying tools. It's one thing to walk around a machine parked on a dealer lot. The salesperson can explain the engineering and the value in the machine; he might have even toured the plant himself. But nothing compares to walking along an assembly line or fabricating area with someone who can explain the nuances of how that machine is put together.
Ask your dealers or distributors to arrange some tours. Try one a quarter, or make it a side trip during a vacation. Either way, you'll be amazed at what's under the paint. And ask lots of questions. Watching your machines being made will either reassure you that you're making the right choice, or it will send you running to another manufacturer.
|Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief, ASBPE Regional Award Winner, 630-288-8130, firstname.lastname@example.org|