One of the unexpected benefits of working as a supplier to large manufacturers is visiting the factories and experiencing the enormous size and productivity on show. Working as a consultant for the metal and manufacturing business unit of Quintiq, I get to do a lot of these visits. I never fail to be awestruck by these amazing places.

I remember my first visit to a metal factory like it was yesterday. I had been working for Quintiq barely two months, and the project I was working on had just moved into a new phase. This phase traditionally starts by giving some basic training to the users of the Quintiq system. The colleague I was working with had just become a dad, so I was going solo. It was up to me to visit my first factory and give my first training.

Using a Google maps printout to find my way, I drove to the factory site. The printout proved pretty much useless; a facility that size would require quite some effort to miss. I arrived at the big main entrance, gave my name, got my visitor’s pass, and more importantly a instructions and a map showing me how to drive to the building I needed to be at. As luck would have it, the building was the furthest away from the main gate.

Driving on a factory site is remarkably different than driving on public road. First of all you never have right of way. The roads are filled with big equipment, unguarded train crossings and randomly placed stockpiles of inventory. Secondly there are distractions everywhere. Machines you’ve talked or read about, material that is partly finished, and so on.

Upon arriving at the building that housed the planners, I got out of the car to discover another surprise. For the duration of the project the project team would be seated on the factory floor. What followed was a short walk through the factory to a cabin in the middle of a stock collection point. I didn’t know where to look with all this activity going on around me. Luckily the testing room was well isolated to drown out the sounds of forklifts racing, metal dropping and machines running.

Over the next months I visited the factory and the factory floor many times. The sights and sounds, however, never lost their appeal. At that factory and the many others I’ve visited since, experiencing the noise, the activity and the overwhelming busy-ness of a production environment is something I consider one of the upsides of the job.

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