Friday, December 7, 2012

Made In Ohio Tour: The KitchenAid Factory

I've been dating Rachel for one year, eight months and fourteen days -- not like anyone is counting -- for nearly as long Rachel has been talking up the awesomeness of the KitchenAid Stand Mixer. I was planning on simply getting her one for Christmas -- which doubles as Rachel's birthday, so you may occassionally hear me refer to it as Rachemas... until I learned they're manufactured in Ohio.

1701 KitcheanAid Way in Greenville, Ohio -- a little North and a little East of Dayton -- to be percise. And they offer factory tours Tuesday-Friday at 12:30. So I asked Rachel to let me know when she may have a Friday off before Christmas and we'd go on a surpise road trip (though I think she figured out where we were going...)

Thursday evening after we both got off of work, we pointed my car Southwest and drove towards Dayton. Cashing in a few Hilton HHonors points, we overnighted at the Hampton Inn in Sidney, Ohio -- a hotel that is exceptionally well-kept, well-staffed, and friendly, given its somewhat "middle of nowhere" location off of Interstate 75. This morning, we slept in, grabbed breakfast and launched in for the last 45 minutes of so of the drive to Greenville.

Not being sure entirely what to expect -- the KitchenAid website is a little light on details, and unless you're bringing a tour bus, the toll-free information number doesn't go much further -- we showed up way too early, and after confirming the yes, indeed, there would be a tour (and learning for the first time, the tour is $5 per person, cash only) we had about an hour to kill.

I had planned on stopping by the KitchenAid Experience -- the KitchenAid store in beautiful and historic downtown Greenville, Ohio (which reminds me a lot of St. Ignace, Michigan) -- after the tour to let Rachel pick her color, and with the surprise no longer a surprise, we decided to do that first. We found a 5 Quart model in the Red she had her heart set on at a good price and I whisked it out to my trunk.

We returned to the Whirlpool facility on KitchenAid way -- that was one of the first things we learned: Since the late 1980s, KitchenAid has been a Whirlpool brand. We signed in, I paid for our tour and while we waited I was impressed by the "Customer First" banner in the lobby (the customer pays our salary, the customer is never an inconvenience, etc.) -- but more impressive, someone had walked in with a blender needing help, and someone who seemed to be straight off of the assembly line provided a replacement part and help in figuring out how to put it back together.

Our group -- there were a total of four of us, Rachel and I and an older couple -- was ushered into the cafeteria where we were given protective eye wear and an assisted listening receiver (to hear our guide over the factory noise). We also met our guide for the day. I had been concerned that it may be a spin-heavy tour lead by a public relations suit. That couldn't be further from the truth. Our guide was a down-to-earth Quality Auditor who has been working for KitchenAid for 34 years -- her job is to take random units off of the assembly line after they've been finished. Once selected, the units are completely disassembled to make sure that they not only look good on the outside but are built perfectly inside. 2% of the plant's production each day gets run through the ringer like this to ensure continuous quality.

The factory tour highlights each stage of manufacturing except casting (which is done in Erie, PA) from paint and polish to gears and building the wire whips. Every KitchenAid stand mixer sold anywhere in the world -- including those exported to China (which made me chuckle) -- rolls off one of the six assembly lines in Greenville. As do the wire whips (which are manufactured at dedicated stations), and most if not all of the attachments for the blenders. KitchenAid blenders and handheld mixers also come off of lines in Greenville.

Also interesting: Some of the pieces of equipment used in the factory today have had long lives at KitchenAid, including making parts to support the war effort during World War II.

On our way out of the factory, we were graciously offered the opportunity to take advantage of a special discount for the holidays and to celebrate KitchenAid's 2 Millionth Mixer -- Where we could purchase a brand new amazing 7 quart lift-bowl mixer (with a capacity of, among other things, 14 Dozen cookies at a time) at a price that was less than what I paid for the refurbished (but still awesome) 5 quart (and a "there's no way that's the right price" less than the price listed on the website): We exchanged the mixers, and it wasn't until I was out in the car and looked at the receipt, which listed the pre-discounted price and nearly fell over (I knew it was a deal, but I didn't know it was significantly more than half off).

While I can't say I go out of my way to buy "Made in America", I am proud to support Ohio manufacturing, from my Honda (built outside Columbus) to the KitchenAid products and it's impressive to see the people and dedication first hand.

So with our visit to the gracious hosts at KitchenAid finished, and being mere miles from the Indiana border, we made a quick jog over to the Fry's Electronics in Fishers (near Indianapolis), grabbed dinner, and headed for the second stop on our tour: A hotel in Wilder, Kentucky where we're spending tonight, before hitting a nearby aquarium tomorrow and heading back to Cleveland -- in time for me to hit a Cleveland Orchestra concert I've been waiting for.


No comments:

Post a Comment