(Topic ID: 160129)

Stern Factory Tour: how to take one?

By goingincirclez

8 years ago

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    #1 8 years ago

    I often see people mention they have taken a tour of Stern's facilities, but I don't see anything on Stern's site that advises how to get one.

    We'll be visiting my family in Chicago in over the long Memorial Day weekend, and hopefully will have some time that Friday or Saturday. My kids both said they'd be interested in a tour... of course I assume one does not simply show up at the factory and ask to roam around. So how should I proceed? It seems kind of silly to call their support line and ask to schedule one (and it's too late in the day to do that now)... or is it really that simple?

    Can anyone shed a little insight toward access? Thank you!

    #2 8 years ago

    If you do go, can we get an update on what's on the line? Seems like there are some supply line issues.... Lots of delays.

    #3 8 years ago
    Quoted from bb2j3z:

    If you do go, can we get an update on what's on the line? Seems like there are some supply line issues.... Lots of delays.

    Someone in the "Stern delays" thread just took one and said there were Met, MMr, GB, and SMVE all on the line

    #4 8 years ago

    Id be interested in learning how to schedule a tour also

    #5 8 years ago

    Most important thing to remember is that the production facility operates M-F 7 am to 3:30 pm and is closed on all holidays.

    #6 8 years ago

    Email Jody or Jim belt

    #7 8 years ago

    Contact Jody

    #8 8 years ago

    Just show up with a pile of pizzas and say you have a delivery for Gary and see if they let you in.

    #9 8 years ago

    Thanks for the tips. While I wish I was on a fist-name basis with Jody or Jim, I'm afraid this reminds me I'm still insufficiently monied and a relative n00b to boot. Would anyone care to share or elaborate (PM is fine if details should be kept in confidence) how to reach them...?

    I did send an inquiry to Stern yesterday, using the contact form on their website, but haven't heard back. Granted it's only been a day, and I don't want to seem impatient... OTOH "life" often makes me forget to stay on top of things 'til it's too late...

    #10 8 years ago

    Let me know if you make any arrangements. My business is literally a couple of blocks away, and I would love to tour as well.

    #11 8 years ago

    You'll probably have trouble finding it because you're going in circles.

    #12 8 years ago
    Quoted from goingincirclez:

    I did send an inquiry to Stern yesterday, using the contact form on their website,

    Call them. Introduce yourself.

    LTG : )

    #13 8 years ago
    Quoted from Gryszzz:

    You'll probably have trouble finding it because you're going in circles.

    Unfortunately I've found that going straight-and-narrow gets me in too much trouble on account of the dragstrip resemblance. My theory is if I'm gonna wreck, at least keep 'em guessing and make it interesting

    #14 8 years ago

    Literally I would make the phone call to Stern and ask for Jody. Most likely you'll get his vm leave a message .

    He's a good guy and doesnt bite.

    1 week later
    #15 8 years ago

    Big photodrop update ahead, but the TL;DR take is: We got one!

    First off, BIG THANKS to those (you know who you are ) who provided and clarified the contact info we needed. I got in touch with Jody last week and he promptly penned us in for a time that fit our schedule.

    Which was today, at 10:30 am....

    ...so before I go any further, THANK YOU, Jody! And Gary (whom we met very much alive) and the rest of the crew at Stern who were all, without exception, exceedingly friendly, gracious, and patient with a bunch of random strangers in their midst. I know "running a production line" and "indulging the public" are two endeavors that are often very much at odds. This hospitality is remarkable, memorable, and very much appreciated, and a testament to Stern's commitment to the community.

    I suddenly feel rather sheepish for not having a Stern in my collection, an issue I think I need to change soon. But at least in pointing that out, nobody can accuse me of being a "fanboy".

    One thing that struck me was how pleasant the facility is. It was mid-80's and humid today, but the facility was well ventilated, airy, and comfortable with a clean appearance and excellent lighting. Not too noisy. All the employees seemed at ease, professional, and productive. A lot of easy-going banter and rapport in the more interactive stations. It seems apparent that Stern treats its employees well. Companies that do so, deserve support.

    As for the current production, LOTS of different games in process and on the line. I was amazed at the mix. I saw MMR, GB pro, GB LE, MET, KISS, ST, GOT, WNBJM all in process. Regarding "delays", apparently some batches of GB parts were QC rejects and heading back to the vendors, and there's a shortage of legacy CPU boards as well. But the line was pretty busy nonetheless. Some GBLE's are finished, heading to FRANCE (?!) of all places... the same customer had some MMR's on the dock as well.


    It's astounding how many different part numbers are in play... both in the warehouses, and at the assembly stations. Various subassemblies, mechs, and other game-specific parts are stocked at any relevant "hand-over" station and it seems like it would be all too easy to make an innocent oops-grab mistake. But there's so much testing and QC along the line any issue would be caught quickly.

    The wiring harness creation is the most fascinating aspect to me. Probably as labor-intensive as pf assembly. Holy hell, the amount of prep and effort and checking involved there, in spaghetti hell. And that's even with the Molex machines and other gear!

    We got to play GB and GBLE, and I didn't think it was as brutal as some are complaining. Granted I'm not a spectacular player, but I only got to have 3 balls on each one and didn't encounter any frustration. Even my kids had reasonable game lengths. I did note a few airballs and a couple WTF drains, BUT I was able to find a rhythm and I'm sure with some more play time (I let my kids have most of it), I would have done even better. I will say a full right loop shot tends to ROCKET down to the left flipper, and I can see how a transit from inlane-to-outlane could become a problem if the game's not set up properly. The Pro model was already showing some wear so it's probably broken in pretty well. I did manage to set a multiball feature score which was kinda cool. The LE's hologram effect was awesome, and the ramp to the subway was great as well. The game is a ton of fun and the animations are the best I have ever seen on a DMD. But these are all first impressions from limited play... yet I cannot wait to try it again.



    Well that's enough rambling I guess... here's a bunch of pics... I'll try to caption some that seem relevant...

    THANKS AGAIN to STERN for a great experience! You've locked in a future customer for certain

    - GIC & Family



    ^New parts stock
    ^ A full 1% of production allotment!

    ....more to come...

    #16 8 years ago

    ^ My eldest is reaching that "jaded preteen" stage... I LOVE how wide-eyed she is here
    ^So they had it ready for installation then POP went an insert... d'oh! It'll be "busted", all right... back into parts. My youngest was fascinated by this, as well as the Stay Puft doll.
    ^ My dad buys all kinds of silly GoT dustcollection memorabilia. I think he needs one of these instead.

    ...Still more coming...

    #17 8 years ago

    ^ Best. Sighting. Ever. I have to hope it just randomly peeled off that way...

    ^ Can you guess what these are for....?
    ^ Best. Topper. Ever. I need to buy one for my van!
    ^ Jody demonstrating the famous Gottlieb Press... can you tell my youngest is a bit too fascinated by everything?

    ...one more after this...

    #18 8 years ago

    ^ Qui allez-vous appeler ?
    ^ They have a machine to make their own packing foam, which was oddly intriguing
    ^ As a Model Railroader in addition to an accidental pinhead, there's all kinds of havoc I could wreak in there...
    ^ In the Customer Support Lab, they were inspecting suspect GoT Mini-PFs. They also stock game ROMs dating way back into the Date East days...
    ^ ...and Test Rigs back to the DE days as well.
    ^ Anyone know what this whitwood is from?
    ^ And finally: "The Most Famous Wall in Pinball"!

    #19 8 years ago

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing.

    #20 8 years ago

    These are great! Looked like a fun and memorable experience!!

    #21 8 years ago

    Thanks for photos!

    #22 8 years ago

    the whitewood in the photo above is KISS. I'm really surprised that they allowed you to take photos, but maybe because there was nothing "new" on the lines that hadn't already been announced and released.

    thanks for sharing and doing a great job capturing pretty much the entire tour for those who haven't taken it before

    #23 8 years ago

    How were the Magslings on tbe GBLE?

    #24 8 years ago

    Great pictures. More of these and there may be less "what's the delay" posts. They must have a million part numbers.

    #25 8 years ago

    Thanks for all the pics!

    #26 8 years ago

    Thanks! I feel I've taken the tour and never left the couch.

    #27 8 years ago

    Thanks for sharing. It was much appreciated. I would like to check out the factory at some point.

    #28 8 years ago

    Gotta ask the same question as above how were the Magnoslings on the LE? Also thanks for the awsome pics

    #29 8 years ago

    Lol I played the LE first, and I was so focused on trying to make the steep ramp shot I forgot all about the slings! Now, that said, they obviously didn't grab my attention as being noticeably different... So that's probably a good thing, that they had a traditional feel or at least no adverse effects. I *did* notice that the slings created a lot of back and forth action, passing from one to the other while progressively passing working the ball up toward the lanes, that I've never quite noticed in other games... But I can't remember if that was on the LE or the pro.

    When I watched my kids play I didn't see anything earth shattering in the slings. So I'd say they're pretty good if they're not messing things up. Long term evaluation is yet to be determined of course...

    Sorry that's the best I can offer. I let my kids hog the time and only got to play once, my first exposure to GB of any sort, so it was a lot to take in!

    #30 8 years ago
    Quoted from goingincirclez:

    ^ Anyone know what this whitwood is from?

    That's a Kiss premium or LE

    2 years later
    #31 5 years ago

    Any advice on getting a tour?

    #32 5 years ago

    I just emailed Jody. We set up the date and time. I took my wife and kids, it was fun, definitely worth it.

    #33 5 years ago

    Do you have Jody’s email address? Can I get it?

    #34 5 years ago

    jody is the one doing this @ stern? I would have thought that it would be zach sharpe

    #35 5 years ago


    Bottom of page has contact for factory tour

    #36 5 years ago
    Quoted from j_m_:

    jody is the one doing this @ stern? I would have thought that it would be zach sharpe

    Who works for who?

    #37 5 years ago

    I went with a friend a couple of years ago on short notice. I emailed their Facebook page and they put me in contact with another person to set up a tour. I'm very short notice Stern allowed me to tour the following day in the afternoon. I thought that was very cool of stern.

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    3 years later
    #38 1 year ago

    Stern website was updated since this thread was started...


    “Minutes from Chicago O’Hare Airport, Stern Pinball is the oldest and largest designer of pinball machines. Get a look inside at arcade games and get insight into their mechanics, design, and assembly. Free. Contact company to schedule.

    #39 1 year ago

    The post you linked to was from July, 2019.

    They haven’t been doing tours for a while.

    #40 1 year ago
    Quoted from Black_Knight:

    The post you linked to was from July, 2019. They haven’t been doing tours for a while.

    First Google result for "Stern Factory Tour". They may want to update their blog post.

    4 months later
    #41 11 months ago

    Are they back to providing tours?

    #42 11 months ago
    Quoted from newpinbin:

    Are they back to providing tours?

    I think they are moving to the new factory right now

    #43 11 months ago

    How far away is it from the old one?

    #44 11 months ago
    Quoted from newpinbin:

    How far away is it from the old one?

    Starting in October 2023, still in Elk Grove Village, IL, a couple blocks away from old one.

    1001 Busse Road


    5 months later
    #46 5 months ago

    Per George Gomez himself, email [email protected] to schedule a tour. It depends on what's on the line if they give tours or not. I travel to the Chicago area on business a lot and am trying to get one. Will post pics if I do!


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