I was so excited when I read the email inviting me to Evansville, Indiana for a Bloggers Plant Tour. There were several reasons I was excited to attend:
- I LOVE my 4-Runner (I love Toyota. Period.)! It is perfect for our family. Although I wouldn't minding having a Sienna ;-). There are a few times that I am wishing that I had a Swagger Wagon. Times like when a friend needs help with the kids and I don't have a third row. OR when Evan begs to have friends over and I would love to go pick them up (again a 3rd row aggravation). OR when we are traveling long distances and the 4-Runner drives like a truck (which I love this feature when winter dumps a foot of snow!). OR when my hands are full of groceries and two little ones are holding on to my legs with a death grip, having a sliding door that opens with a push of a button, would be heaven. Okay you get my drift!!
- I am an engineering, analytical NERD!! I love to see how things work and how things are put together. I am intrigued with design processes and applications!
- Oh and the slight incentive of being away from the kids for a much needed mommy break.
You may remember my post before I left. If not, you need to go check out the Swagger Wagon video. It. Is. Priceless!! Just the advertising genius alone makes me want to buy a Sienna.
Living in GM country (or unfortunately what was GM country, only empty factories remind us of what was), I was intrigued and excited for the Tour. You see, I have probable misconceptions of how an automobile plant operates. Growing up, many of my friends parents worked at our area GM plant and told me stories after stories of happenings at work. So I couldn't wait to enter through the door and see for myself how an actual automobile plant operated!
But before and after the plant tour, I got to hang out with some fun and amazing bloggers and the masterminds behind this event. We had amazing meals and drinks and chit - chatted about everything from diapers to sports to the Wright Brothers (you know everyone at the table was asking about the Wright Brothers since you know... I live in the birthplace of flight!) to education to breaking the law to babies to teenagers and everything in between. The conversations twisted and turned and we laughed a lot through it all. Not a dull moment was had!
We arrived early on Wednesday morning to the plant! There was sooooo much I learned from the day that I don't even know how to put it all down in words without writing a chapter book. So I think the easiest thing to do and the humane thing to do (so you don't have to read a chapter book) is to break it down into a list! I LOVE lists - straightforward and to the point!
- The Evansville plant produces the Sienna, Highlander and Sequoia.
- The first thing I noticed and continued to notice and be amazed by was how CLEAN everything was. Come on now, I know it sounds silly, but when I think of a manufacturing plant I think dirty, grimy and dark! So maybe, it is just me, but I was in awe that everything was clean, bright and shiny (even on the lines!)
- Hello, they had this as soon as you walked through the doors:
Awwww.....MY Swagger Wagon. I may or may not have hugged it and tried to figure out how to bring it home with me without anyone noticing!
- Did you know that most of the vehicles from Toyota that we drive here in North America are now produced in North America...all except for...cough...cough...4-Runners...cough...oops! Random fact that I was not aware of!
- Toyota takes great care in making sure that their workers are taken care of, and that they are healthy and happy. I expected to see a plant all by itself. Not a campus setting with a doctor's office, a child care facility, work out areas and health and wellness facility. Every possible thing that one may need is right there at their fingertips on campus. Physical therapists, guidance counselors, nutritionists, medical doctors all there when needed. Toyota has it right. If you take care of your workers, your workers will take care of you. And honestly, I would say that the majority of people I watched working were energetic and hard working.
- The engineering and design of the plant had me boggled (for less of a better word) for the WHOLE time I was in the tour! You know the scene in Monster's Inc with the bedroom doors. Yeah, it was like that times one hundred! Vehicles over head traveling on one line, while their doors were heading to the end of the line to meet back up with their vehicle. Little unmanned carts driving on a magnetic strip bringing parts to different areas of the line then heading back to their origin. It was ridiculous. Yeah that's all I can say about it. My words can not explain the intricate network of moving lines! My engineering mind was HURTING trying to figure out how someone (obviously multiple someones) could design something like this. I so want to meet those designers!!!!!
But with all the fanciness of the plant, the one thing that resonated with me wasn't about the design or the beautiful brand new cars. After the year that Toyota has had with recalls, press and lower sales due to the recalls, the TMMI plant DID NOT lay off one person! THAT is huge, especially coming from GM country! Toyota used every moment of time that was not being used with production to re-educate, to work out kinks, to offer classes, to work on team building etc. so that not one worker would be laid off! To say that I was amazed and shocked when hearing this, would be an understatement!
- The Evansville plant gives back to the community! They offer free field trips and special events for the local schools. Education days are set up to explore math and science with hands on activities and experiments led by Toyota employees. They produce and participate in wellness events to encourage healthier lifestyles for the community. The land that is not being used on site is being reforested with native trees. Strict recycling programs are being implemented on site so that waste is minimal.
- I have to admit, I was a little bitter that they didn't let us drive the vehicles on the test track. Come on now, 15 bloggers driving around the test track isn't a safety liability! But all kidding aside, even the process of testing the vehicles boggled my mind. I was speaking with one of the employees (who happened to grow up near where I live) about what all goes on through the testing of the vehicle, when he stopped and said, "you know you have been playing with your necklace while we have been talking and that is the type of sounds those drivers are trained to listen for". WHAT?? That's crazy. I have two small pennants (with the kids' names on each) on a necklace and really I didn't even notice the sound I was making.
I know I have most likely missed some valid and interesting points, but as I said earlier, the trip was amazing and over whelming at the same time. I love my Toyota. I love it even more now that I have experienced the "behind the scenes". Now I need to figure out a way to get me that Swagger Wagon. The only thing I can think of is having another kid. That would justify the extra space and luxuries needed, wouldn't it?? Hmmmm...
Thank you Toyota for your generosity and hospitality to all of us crazy bloggers ;-)!!
*Disclosure: I was sponsored by Toyota for this trip, accommodations and travel. I was not asked to write any posts about the trip. And unfortunately was not compensated for this trip with a car, although that would have been a wonderful perk don't ya think? ;-) All opinions and views are my own!