The show How It's Made offers a glimpse into the world of production where all of your favorite products are made. Here are some stories from those who have worked in the places HIM went to film!
Many thanks to the Reddit user who posed this question and to those who responded. You can check out the source at the end of this article!
1/17. The noise and the smell
Every factory I've been to you have to wear hearing protection inside and the smell outside the factory makes me nauseous.
2/17. I worked in a French fry factory. They didn't show all the waste that gets dumped into 40ft trailers known as "cow chow".
Or when belts get jammed up and it rains fries on the floor. They also didn't show employees such as myself drilling Frozen hash brown patties at other people. Or setting up garbage cans to try and toss them in from 50 ft away. Or hash brown hockey with hidden sticks. Or rippin sick donuts on the forklift. Or the forklift bumper cars. Or the forklift/shovel bumper shining.
Everything else was pretty accurate though.
3/17. I worked in a factory that did bent fluorescent tubes. They showed some of the process and they were pretty good with the details but they entirely skipped how fluorescent lighting actually works and the basement where the phosphors were blended was not event shown. Plus they focused on the bendy tubes even thought its a really small percentage of all florescent lighting. Also did not show QC.
4/17. Cardboard box factory, I've seen the episode but what I'm about to say probably applies to every factory. The don't show when things get messed up, thats like half the reason the employees are there. They show machines running and making stuff.
For example: They show the corrugator and the box machine. They don't say "sometimes the glue cuts out momentarily, going unnoticed by the corrugator engineers, this can lead to jam ups when the box is made" Then cut to me standing by the machine in 115 degree heat ripping paper shreds out of my machine and loudly cursing.
5/17. I saw an episode a while back that showed making a trombone. I wasn't on the episode, but I worked in a company that did exactly that. They showed a small company (Shires, made by Steve Shires) but the company I worked at was bigger. There are a ton of steps involved in the process, but they left out most of the small ones that are boring to the average person. Soldering, tube bending, and buffing don't sound exciting, but seeing it all come together is really cool!
I'll have to re-watch the episode to see what was specifically left out, but I would imagine they left out stuff like heat treating (annealing, very important to the sound), hand slide drawing (the most important part of a trombone), and maybe bell spinning (taking a bell and getting the material to the right thickness through using materials of varying hardness).
6/17. I worked for a company that was featured on a similar show and I appeared in the episode. Part of my job was to follow the camera team around and make sure they didn't record certain proprietary processes that we did not want our competitors to see. They had agreed before the shoot not to film certain things but kept trying to record them anyway.
7/17. I worked at a couple of factories, and sometimes I imagined that they were there filming an episode, and I was the one explaining everything. Factory life can be pretty tedious at times.
8/17. If anyone can check in from the Plumbus factory, I've always wondered why they cut out the hazard removal.
9/17. Plastic film guy here. For those that dont know, there are a few departments in most factories. The manufacturing, maintenance, front office, shipping, and receiving.
Sometimes you get understaffed departments because the owners are trying to save money and its frequent that the maintenance staff is staffed with new guys who don't know anything for their first few months.
Anyways, the manufactering department is supposed to get the maintenance staff when things breakdown or arent running properly. (Lots of vibrations and friction of plastic rubbing on things will wear things down in a place that runs 24/7) However, since the manufacturing department is usually headed by people who have worked there for 20+ years, they know how to fix things. And by fixing them I mean they jury rigging things without letting the maintence know they are broken. Many things get overlooked, and after a while the entire plant is covered with tape, cardboard, pieces of a metal rod, etc. holding things in place.
Im sure when shows like How its made come into the plant to make their show they clean it up. However, if you were just to walk in on any random day the place would look like its just barely holding together.
10/17. They never show how you have to shoot the breeze with the receptionist or how the front desk is sometimes a small room with just a chair and a telephone.
11/17. I've worked in a few factories and I am amazed that they can make this stuff look interesting. Most mass manufacturing is basically the same. If you can say work at a car factory, you could basically walk right into a food production plant and get plugged right in to a position with very little training and little difficulty.
When you see a 20 second clip of somebody operating what seems to be an intricate piece of machinery it looks like it takes a lot of skill. But a lot of these jobs are just simple mindless work. The part of manufacturing they don't ever show is stuff like the hours a week of lost production do to machines breaking down, the drama when you have to work next to people you don't like, all of the nuanced hand to hand deals, the drinking and smoking in the parking lot during lunch.
Not to mention how people deal with the monotony of standing in the same spot doing the same repetitive job for hours on end. People talk to themselves, sing, dance, have imaginary arguments with the boss. Factories have enough drama and characters to be a hit reality show.
I worked in an ice cream factory, and I can tell you the one thing "How it's Made" never shows is the waste in food production plants. We would on average throw away between one and two thousand pounds of popsicles an hour on an average day.
12/17. Not "How It's Made" but essentially the same show with "Factory Made". They showed pretty much everything but how miserable the workers were. Overall the episode was what you'd show a potential investor in your company. Very high-level overview and any fancy looking equipment you have, even if it just makes toast and blinks Morse code.
From what I recall the show people were taken on a tour of the factory and shown everything that wasn't currently under development or a trade-secret process. They filmed the tour, asked questions and put together their own show without anyone on our end involved in "what made the cut". But again, this was the tour you give to potential investors, so pretty much what they wanted to see to begin with.
13/17. My friend works for the city replacing and maintaining sewer pipes and whenever I watch shows that involve that they always show the nasty aspects of it, poop and water just gushing everywhere and whatnot.
One thing that they never show is how much fun some of the guys have while doing it. My friend Snapchats videos all the time of him and his co-workers laughing and pranking each other on the job. It really shows a different side to his line of work and I always look forward to seeing them.
14/17. Worked at a factory MTD in Ohio, they didn't use our factory when showing how snow throwers were made but having spent 5 years there everything I remember from the episode seemed legit especially since I worked with the augers they showed.
They skip a lot of the tedious parts but showed the process and it was all there and a job well done for the history channel on this show.
15/17. I worked for Wells Vehicle Electronics when HIM did a segment on oil pressure sensors. It was actually pretty boring. Three guys basically take stock video of each section of the line for a few hours, move stuff around and repeat. The post process stuff happens elsewhere.
Unfortunately it was a very uneventful and boring process.
16/17. I work for Siemens, the worlds largest automation company. I also used to work with Rockwell automation, the largest automation company in North America. I sell the stuff that makes the stuff in this show. Almost every process I've seen on the show has left out some boring parts of the process. There's really no huge secret that's being left out, it's just people don't like to know how a rivet is punched into a futon frame. They care more about big picture stuff.
17/17. I worked at a renowned crayon company.
You don't get to see the product testing.
Check out some bonus answers on the next page!
I'd like to see how they make "how it's made".
A meta-how it's made.
Schools stopped doing this a long time ago but when I was in grade school in the 1950's our classes were always going on field trips. The San Francisco area had the best industrial companies for school field trips: MJB coffee plant (smelled great and got to watch the coffee taster sip then spit it out into a big spittoon), Green Giant food canning plnt, Ghirardelli chocolates factory, wonder Bread being baked, Morton salt factory, Delmo Victor electronics factory, Bell System telephone switching center. We'd pile on a school bus with a bag lunch on these trips, finish the day at a park.
Back at the school they would also these type of films in class as well on a 16mm film projector. Though one day in 6th grade they separated all the girls to go to another classroom, all the boys stayed in the main classroom and watched a film on how baxuite was manufactured into aluminium. When the film was over and the girls came back, we boys asked what movie they saw. None of the girls would say, just giggled and ran off.