Tuesday we went to see the Carriage RV plant and see how they build the Carriage brand RVs, http://www.carriageinc.com/. They give tours Monday – Thursday at 9:30 am, you gather at the tour center located by their RV park. The RV park has about twenty sites, FHU, and you stay free the night before the tour. The tour was good in that you got a glimpse of how they build the campers but you don’t get to get up close and talk with the employees. In fact only one plant we went to allow this, two if we count Excel when we toured their plant. The Carriage plant is currently building 4-5 units per week, I don’t know if this is the number they maintain all the time or it is due to the economic times, I forgot to ask. All in all it is a good tour even though you don’t get up close, until the end of the tour, you do get a feel for the quality that goes into the units. Carriage does build their own frames, something I like. As with all the plants we toured they employ a number of Amish folks. We also toured the building where they make all their own seats, pillows etc. This building was air conditioned and big. They do all the upholstery work for all their divisions. It was interesting to see how fast the sewing machines could go and watching the ladies run the machines. I am sure I would be sewing my fingers to the fabric and I would not be able to keep up with the quota requirements.
Wednesday we went to the Jayco plant, http://www.jayco.com/php/products/fifth.wheels/trailer.php?id=248, this company was the biggest manufacturer we visited, They have a number of plants producing different makes in this one area, we toured the Pinnacle line. The Pinnacle is Jayco’s high end fifth wheel, they have discontinued the Designer line of campers. This company has the nicest tour center, they even sell Jayco shirts, jackets and hats. They have a few of the camper models sitting at the center so you get an idea of what they make and the differences in them. You get on a tour bus and ride out to the plant, we were going to see the Pinnacle being made, they make one model at a time. Jayco’s frames are made at another company which is owned by the family who owns Jayco, they are brought in on a just in time basis. The company has enough components at the plant to build the units on the line for that day. The plant quota is to build seven campers per day and my understanding is the employee bonus is predicated on meeting this goal. I don’t much care for the incentive or piece work compensation when building a “high” end fifth wheel. We were able to go through the final product and it was nice but so far the Carriage was better.
I called a company called Forks RV in Shipshewana, http://forksrv.com/continental/, to see if they gave tours and the message said they were closed due to a death in the family. So I sent them an email asking if they gave tours and I received an answer this morning saying they do anytime between 10 and 2, so we headed over to see them. From their website I knew they build high end units and they build for overseas delivery also. We met with Jay Troyer, he is in sales and marketing, he gave us a nice overview of the company and then we went out to see the production. It takes them approximately 50 days to build a unit depending on the specifications. The model we looked at was the Continental Express, this is the entry level fifth wheel but beat all the others we had seen since being here. In all my research to find our fifth wheel I did not come across this company but they are worth a look at if you are looking for a well built unit. They will take your ideas and/or floorplans and put engineer them into a livable unit, within all safety standards. They had three units, two fifth wheels and a travel trailer, being built with the entry door on the left side of the camper, these units were going to England. The workmanship and quality in these units was very noticeable. They are updating their website soon to show more of the fifth wheel line for 2012. It was a good visit and I thank Jay for the tour and time he took to visit with us. If you are looking for a high end unit built with quality and class, this is the company. They are not cheap and the units reflect that throughout, here are pictures of what they build, go to the web site for more pictures and information:
Thursday, after our tour of Forks RV we got something to eat and then went to see how Heartland builds their units. Of course the GPS put us at the wrong building but after looking around we found the correct building. A nice young lady greeted us and we gave them our name etc. and had a seat. At three we, five of us, began the tour with a guy from marketing, I don’t remember his name. With the temperatures today in the 90s and heat index above a hundred they let the employees go home so the tour was sans noise but in some cases not much lighting either. It wasn’t the best tour I have ever been on. The Big Horn was the unit that was being built so we did get to see the different steps in the building process. It was interesting to see what goes into this process, it seemed to be better than the Jayco and about the same as the Carriage but far below the Continental’s process.
So after seeing these plants I would have to say if I were looking to buy now I would definitely look at the Continental, they have the quality and the care in the building process I looked for in a well built camper.
We are here for another week, leaving on the 31st.
Remember – Dreams Do Come True