August 28, 2013

8/12/13 - Factory Tours

We met a wonderful couple last winter in Arizona that we've stayed in touch with--even joined up with them at campgrounds in Texas, Lancaster (PA), and now one east of Gettysburg. Ray & Linda are originally from Pennsylvania, so they really know the area. Besides introducing us to the wonderful (and huge!) Pennsylvania Dutch smorgasbord Shady Maple and the (huge, but without the !) Green Dragon Farmers Market near Ephrata*, they took us on tours of factories in York and Hanover.
Harley-Davidson Motor Company (Vehicle Operations in York, PA) calls their tour "Legends in the Making". Like the Mint, no cameras allowed in the factory. I suppose that's for industrial espionage here (still not sure about the Mint).
They did let us take pictures in the Tour Center, which is a basically a motorcycle showroom where you wait for your tour time. This factory makes Touring and Softail bikes and Trikes, as well as the CVOs.  (If you're into Harleys, you'll know what that is; if it's not, just think "customized".) 
We got to look at the structure of the bikes. That was boring.
Gas tank designs were kind of cool--or at least might be if I was in the market for a gas tank, possibly even attached to a motorcycle.
We got to pretend to ride a few of the bikes. That was fun. 
Tour time!  First the requisite video of the history of HD. Then we were given a tour badge (to tell us tourists from the workers) and a headset and receiver. It's so noisy in the factory that's the only way you can hear what the tour guide is saying. Then, like little ducklings, we were escorted between the painted lines to watch robotic machines do things like cut a hunk of metal, then squash it into the shape of a gas tank.  There are lots of robotic machines for specific tasks; didn't see an R2D2 anywhere! 
Because they were working on the 2014 models (which wouldn't be released to the dealerships until next week) we couldn't even look through the windows of the Final Assembly section. Like I'd know the difference between a 2013 and a 2014 model anyway! (Or between any-other-year and a 2014! Well, I might be able to recognize the one they made in 1914 and 2014, but I'd like the option of a clue.)

Next factory was something I could at least relate to: the Utz Potato Chip facility. Okay, I'll admit I'd never heard of Utz chips until we came east. They don't have an actual tour, but an observation gallery which overlooks their production process. Each section along the gallery has a button to push for an audio explanation of what's going on below. 

When we arrived there was a truck full of potatoes just starting to unload. They scooped those vegetables up and immediately sent them through ... for washing and sorting and slicing, then along conveyor belts to be fried, salted, dried and packaged. 
No pictures here either (what's with that for potato chips, for Pete's sake?) but I was able to find one... somewhere.  The fryer wasn't what I expected.  It's not a huge vat, but a flat thing the conveyor belt slides through. 
Not a lot of people but a lot of inspections. Potato chips are a whole lot less fragile than I expected. They drop them from one section to another and they don't break. (So how come I can't pour a bag of chips into a bowl without getting crumbs?)

Next stop was the Outlet Store for samples (Tabasco?  Really?) and chips. Ray insisted that I get a package of Grandma's Handcooked Potato Chips. I didn't read the label until I got home--no wonder they say they're made like Grandma Utz made them! They use LARD to fry them in! 
Snyder's of Hanover makes pretzels. Their factory isn't open on Monday... Emoji
...but their Outlet Store is.  Emoji

*Ephrata is pronounced EF-ruh-tuh in Pennsylvania; ee-FRAY-tuh in Washington state.  Is it any wonder I haven't a clue how to speak in this country?
Click for a few more pics of Harley-Davidson & Utz Factory Tours

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