Dynamic guide. Exclusive access. Observing complex processes. Incredible industrial machines. Surprising learning opportunity. Free samples at the end. These are hallmarks of successful factory tour. Unfortunately, loud production noise can compromise all of them. No matter how fantastic the factory tour, if it’s too loud, tour group members most anticipate the end than anything else.
One of the most advanced food processing facilities in the world ran into this very problem. Due to security and privacy reasons, we aren’t at liberty to reveal the company name. We can say that it’s one of the world’s largest food-processing corporations. This specific facility’s Safety, Health and Environmental Manager summed up the challenge as this: “We need to have productive conversations with our guests no matter where we are within the building. The biggest challenge we face is being understood.”
Do These Factory Tour Challenges Sound Familiar?
At this site, our food-processing customer runs eight productions lines 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Average noise levels hover above OSHA-mandated safety thresholds with peak noise levels approaching 105dB, so hearing protection is required for every factory tour. This unfriendly communication environment presented many challenges, including:
- Group conversation: Guides and guests needed to be able to hear and be heard anywhere inside the 460,000-square-foot facility, regardless of noise level.
- High-noise environment: Sound levels averaged between 85-90dB throughout the plant, and close proximity to equipment increased that to 105dB or more.
- Safety compliance: Participants must wear full PPE, including lab coats and hearing and eye protection. Hair must be netted and loose clothing and items secured.
Deliver a More Accurate Portrayal of Your Brand
The challenge comes down to making guests comfortable and safe. The factory tour is a public relations tool. If it’s successful, then your brand will be rewarded. If it fails, then your brand can take a beating in social media, by employees who question the company’s competence or by guests who are evaluating whether to buy your product.
If one of your corporate executives from overseas is on a factory tour, do you want them to associate a walkie-talkie and a set of earmuffs with your state-of-the-art industrial processes? How about a prospective customer or supplier? Or an elected official?
Our food-processing customer attempted to wire walkie-talkies directly to hearing protectors with microphones. Push to talk (PTT) got the best of this attempt. Connected wires had to be concealed inside a coat so anyone who wanted to speak had to reach inside the coat to push the PTT button. Also, any longhaired guest struggled with wires in the hairnets. Finally, due to the two-way radio’s one-way channel, only one person could speak at a time. And when he or she did PTT, background noise often drowned out their voice.
Self-Contained, Wireless Solution
Our customer ultimately overcame their factory tour challenges with a Sonetics 12-person wireless tour communication system with advanced hearing protection. Full-duplex communication, hands-free operation and noise-cancelling microphones helped guides lead immersive, interactive tours across the production floor. Originally intended to be used a few times a year, the system performed so well that the plant found other opportunities to use it. It is scalable in broadcast (listen-only) mode to accommodate up to 100 guests and three tour guides or instructors.