Posted by Monica Nakamine on Friday, January 2, 2015 - 07:00
Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of some of the most iconic manufacturing companies in the world? To satisfy your inner-geek, you might want to consider going on a tech tour.
No matter what kind of IT pro you are – engineer, developer, analyst, etc. – you can appreciate how products are manufactured simply because technology and innovation have become such an integral part of the process. From design and materials to the factory line and supply chain, technology is at the core of nearly every manufactured consumer product. But how is technology applied? What processes are in place that transforms raw materials into a finished product?
While most companies don’t offer public tours, there are others that offer the public a glimpse into what it takes to create their end product.
Here are a few tech tours, in the US and throughout the world that will not only dazzle you (check out the “cool factors”), but might even give you a deeper appreciation of technology’s many applications.
- The Intel Museum – Santa Clara, CA As one of Silicon Valley’s tech behemoths, Intel has been manufacturing silicon semiconductor chips since 1968. Their success, legacy and contribution to technology have been highlighted in their own museum.
Cool factor: Who knew silicon chips could be interesting to the general population? Although geared more toward the grown-up geek, the Intel Museum has a number of hands-on interactive experiences that anyone can try. For instance, how fast is a megahertz?
- Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour – Everett, WA The Future of Flight Aviation Center is the only place in North America to tour a commercial jet assembly plant.
Cool factor: Not only can you take a tour, but you can also visit various interactive learning “zones,” including the Future Concepts Zone, the Airplane Design Zone and the Passenger Experience Zone, for a hands-on experience.
- Moog – Asheville, NC Soon after Dr. Robert Moog pioneered the analog synthesizer back in the mid-1960s, musicians and recording artists became interested in its seemingly endless musical possibilities and experimental nature. Early users included The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and The Doors. Learn about the evolution of Moog synthesizers and other electronic musical instruments.
Cool factor: In the Moog Factory, watch Moog instruments being built by hand. Then, head to the Moog Store to play every Moog instrument that’s in production.
- Harley-Davidson – Kansas City, MO During the free factory tour, visit the floor to watch the robotic welding technology in action, as well as the many other processes that go into creating a Harley-Davidson.
Cool factor: They don’t call it the Steel Toe Tour for nothing. Put on your safety gear and visit areas of the factory that were previously unavailable for public viewing, including “paint and polish.” The Steel Toe Tour is the only public tour where you can get up-close-and-personal and witness a Harley-Davidson powertrain and vehicle assembled and brought to life.
- MIT Museum – Cambridge, MA The MIT Museum highlights many technological advancements, inventors, discoveries and products in their visiting exhibitions as well as their permanent collections.
Cool factor: As part of their exhibitions, the MIT Museum showcases student inventions that represent a variety of disciplines. You can find out what students are working on – maybe even get a look into what the future holds.
- Volkswagen Autostadt – Wolfsburg, Germany The Factory Tour – a transparent electric train ride through the VW Golf’s production line – is only one stop among many at Volkswagen’s new theme-park-esque attraction that’s modern, sleek and, ultimately, fun for all generations of geek.
Cool factor: If the Factory Tour doesn’t provide enough technology, check out the Car Towers Ascent, a glass elevator-ride through one of Volkswagen’s high-rise garages. Each one houses 400 new vehicles. As you head up to the 20th-floor observation deck, you’ll see their patented vehicle delivery system at work.
What interesting tech tours have you been on recently?