While traveling in Indiana, we had the opportunity to tour some of the RV factories in the RV capitol of the world, Elkhart County, Indiana. We toured Thor’s and Jayco’s Class “C” plants. We toured Grand Design’s plant for 5th wheels. We got to tour the factory plant of Riverside travel trailers as well the Newmar’s Class A Motorhome plant.
Wow, what a difference in each factory’s processes. You may know or not know that most of the manufacturing in the RV industry is by human hands verses the automotive industry which uses a lot of robotics. Yes, they use some type of conveyor systems to move either RVs and or parts throughout the manufacturing process but most of the work is by human hands. Some manufactures use outside vendors for things like the RV wiring and others create their own “wiring harnesses” for their RVs. Some customize the chassis they purchase from Freightliner, Ford, Chevrolet, Spartan and Mercedes but others will subcontract out the work to another supplier to make the chassis fit the RV the factory is going to manufacture.
The cleanliness of the factory floor varies for each manufacture. Some are clean enough to almost eat off (sort of) while others appear to be an accident waiting to happen.
Many of the employees that work in the RV factories are of Amish decent. We were told that women can make up to 25% of the workforce in the RV factories, doing various jobs throughout the factory manufacturing floor.
Currently, most of the RV factories are only working one shift per day to produce their RVs. Some put out as many as 24 RVs per day, while others take up to two (2) months to produce a single RV. Our observation was it didn’t matter how fast they manufactured RVs. They all claim to have a “quality control process” in place but the quality was revealed at the end of the assembly line.
We saw some RVs at the end of assembly line (ready for sale) that had minor defects that we see as RV inspectors to be inferior quality. Our tour guides, in all the manufacturing plants, worked in the sales or marketing department. Some were very knowledgeable of their products and it seemed others were just there to be our guides.
If you are in the market for an RV, try to tour the RV factories before you purchase. As always, get an RV inspection, whether you purchase new or used.