We were up with the chickens this morning, or at least it felt that way. We were washed, dressed, breakfasted and out the door before 8:00 a.m.. Now, I know for those of you who are gainfully employed, that seems like no big thing. But remember, we retired folk who have adjusted to a whole new paradigm and find early hours a shock.
Nevertheless, we did get to the Kohler Design Center well before tour time and soon had our ID badges and headsets. We met our guide, Lowell, who worked for Kohler in the foundry for over 44 years before he retired. He’s been a tour guide for the last 12, and is a spry 75 years old. He warned us that we were going to cover a lot of ground on the tour, and he wasn’t kidding.
We donned safety glasses before entering the first factory building. In all we visited three of the manufacturing facilities located here, including the clay/porcelain, iron foundry, and brass fabricating plants.
This tour really takes you into a working facility and we had to dodge forklift trucks and workers. We also had to hug the walls and walk in narrow yellow-outlined paths to maintain our safety. We saw clay moulded, fired and glazed. We watched glowing, 2,800 degree molten iron poured from large containers into moulds and the resulting sinks, bathtubs and other industrial items (including Ford truck transmission parts and crankshafts) blasted, ground, measured, tested and in the case of the sinks and tubs, reheated to 1700 degrees. They workers sift glass powder over them which turns the powder instantly into a durable, enamel finish. Finally we watched brass tubing formed into graceful shapes by super-high water pressure and even observed a skilled worker hand casting brass in mere seconds from liquid metal to recognizable fixtures. Alas, there are no cameras allowed on the tour, so my descriptions must suffice.
All in all the three-hour tour was an amazing look at the incredibly complex process the Kohler Company uses to create the products we all use every day without thinking a thing about how they were made. To us they are a normal and necessary part of life, but I don’t think I’ll ever take them for granted again. If you are ever in Wisconsin, take the time to go on the tour, you won’t regret it! Here’s the link:
After our tour (and its 2.5 miles and 5,280 steps!), Diana and I visited the American Club Hotel and enjoyed lunch at the Horse & Plow restaurant there. Then we wandered around the village and shopped a little at the very upscale shopping center within the Kohler village.
Afterward we drove a few miles east and spent some time enjoying the shore of Lake Michigan. As evening approached, we drove back to our motel through the historic old town portion of Shiboygen.
Another interesting, unusual, informative and tiring day. I think we could get used to this!