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Old 05-05-2016, 01:23 AM   #1
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Default FitRV Winnebago Class B Factory Tour

FitRV posted this informative video.

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Notice any differences in what you see here from what you'd see at the Roadtrek factory?
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Old 05-05-2016, 02:53 AM   #2
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This is actually a pretty darn good video. Winnebago may not be the BEST there is out there for state of the art techniques, but I was mildly impressed with some of the things they are doing (like labeling wires).

Through the whole video I was thinking that this was probably what Hymar was hoping for when they let Mike video the Roadtrek facility. Nothing against Mike or Roadtrek but I was underwhelmed... made me think Roadtrek production is sloppy (not saying it actually IS, just that's what I took away from the video). This video by James and Steph actually made me reconsider Winnebago. Especially when you consider that they translate economies of scale into cost savings for the customer.

Gotta love the FitRV!
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Old 05-05-2016, 05:02 AM   #3
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This is actually a pretty darn good video. Winnebago may not be the BEST there is out there for state of the art techniques, but I was mildly impressed with some of the things they are doing (like labeling wires).......

Gotta love the FitRV!
Agree it's a good video. Certainly Roadtrek also labels its wires and probably also uses sonic welding to combine wires. I know Airstream does both.
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Old 05-05-2016, 07:15 AM   #4
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Notice any differences in what you see here from what you'd see at the Roadtrek factory?
And here's the Leisure Travel Vans production facility.
Leisure Travel Vans - Unity Video Owner's Manuals

What I noticed about both the Winnebago and the LTV factories was the shelving racks and storage facilities for their parts and tools. Roadtrek seemed to use the floor as a combination storage rack and trash can.
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Old 05-05-2016, 11:32 AM   #5
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Agree it's a good video. Certainly Roadtrek also labels its wires and probably also uses sonic welding to combine wires. I know Airstream does both.
Probably all true... the point I was trying to make is that the FitRV video did a nice job of showcasing those things. Not everyone has the time to travel to Iowa or Ontario or Ohio, etc for factory tours and this video provided some of the info you wouldn't get otherwise.
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Old 05-05-2016, 12:41 PM   #6
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The Winnebago plant appears to be a modern well designed facility for high volume motorhome production and looks similar to what you would see for many other brands. Quality processes in the production area are known to be very good with pretty consistent build quality the result. One thing that does differentiate Winnebago is the high level of vertical integration, for example, they design and build their own high quality furniture in addition to cabinetry which is unusual in larger RVs where furniture usually comes from outside suppliers. Many advantages to being a high volume producer...

It would be interesting to see a similar video of a Hymer van plant in Europe. I would expect the new facility in Kitchener to be designed based on the processes used at Hymer plants...
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Old 05-05-2016, 12:57 PM   #7
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Not to put a dampener on this Winnebago c.j., but despite their nice facility, they do some shoddy work and I'm entitled to say that as I own one. For instance, out of 6 drawers, 2 had their latches installed opposite the other 4 and there were 3 different kinds of screws holding the glides in place only 1 of which had the correct head for the job. None were tight.

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Old 05-05-2016, 02:02 PM   #8
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Not to put a dampener on this Winnebago c.j., but despite their nice facility, they do some shoddy work and I'm entitled to say that as I own one. For instance, out of 6 drawers, 2 had their latches installed opposite the other 4 and there were 3 different kinds of screws holding the glides in place only 1 of which had the correct head for the job. None were tight.

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You will have to translate "c.j." for old codgers like me but I get the impression it is not a term of praise...

In any case, it would appear that you got one that did not get the quality build that is touted as a differentiator between Winnebago and the unwashed other brand coming out of lower Ontario. I do agree that you would have been more likely to get a lower quality build from Roadtrek in recent years than from Winnebago but maybe Winnie is not quite as perfect as it is claimed to be...
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Old 05-05-2016, 02:42 PM   #9
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Can't speak to Eric's issues, as I haven't had any. That said, there are lots of improvements that I think could be made in materials. If you look at the furniture modules in the video, it's apparent that alot of it is built to keep the weights down. That doesn't excuse using the wrong screws or not bolting things down properly, that's probably a function of worker training and the speed on the assembly "line". Often I think screw guns are more trouble than they are worth and create a lot of headaches. I've backed out and re-seated plenty of screws in my van. I have plans to change some of them just for aesthetic reasons.

What impressed me with the WGO plant in the video was the orderliness of the floor. Bringing out the parts in work packages, just when needed is a good technique. As is removing the trash as it's created. I was also impressed with the stairways used so the interior work could still go on while they are working below - that must be a time-saver.
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Old 05-05-2016, 02:50 PM   #10
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Agree it's a good video. Certainly Roadtrek also labels its wires and probably also uses sonic welding to combine wires. I know Airstream does both.
I don't think anybody goes to the depths WGO does on part numbering. Everything in their RV's (including the trailers) is numbered so you can go easily to their catalog and get replacements - even for very old units.

Another impressive thing they do is have detailed drawings available online. Structural, electrical, plumbing, it's all there. Who else does that?

Wire labeling should be a minimum standard for everybody. It just makes life so much better for everybody down the road.
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Old 05-05-2016, 03:08 PM   #11
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FitRV posted this informative video.

" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="350">

Notice any differences in what you see here from what you'd see at the Roadtrek factory?
Winnebago product manager, Russ Garfin is a class act and the company continues to improve their products.

I wish they would / could be open to a little more customization (i.e. cold weather pack). I think James has mentioned this and hopefully will see production-line improvements in insulation, where water lines are run, etc. over time.
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Old 05-05-2016, 03:15 PM   #12
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The issues with my Travato have not affected my enjoyment of it, except for the pinched wire behind the nuke that shorted out all ceiling lights and the radio. That was fixed under warranty. All is well now.

However there is really no excuse for only 3 out of 4 screws holding the radio in hitting wood, using drywall screws to build cabinets and having to clean glue off of the floor in corners. Take a look at things like the power center or the A/C or monitor panels. I'll bet you'll find instances of screws not going in perpendicular to the panels but instead coming in at an angle in an attempt to hit wood. Sure it's usually no big deal and everything looks and operated OK.

I can correct all these things and honestly I enjoy doing it and when I'm done, I'll have the best assembled Travato on the road. But a clean shiny facility doesn't mean much in my book.
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Old 05-05-2016, 03:16 PM   #13
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I don't think anybody goes to the depths WGO does on part numbering. Everything in their RV's (including the trailers) is numbered so you can go easily to their catalog and get replacements - even for very old units.

Another impressive thing they do is have detailed drawings available online. Structural, electrical, plumbing, it's all there. Who else does that?

Wire labeling should be a minimum standard for everybody. It just makes life so much better for everybody down the road.
Winnebago gets kudos for the detailed design info that is available online for all models, not something available elsewhere to my knowledge. Wire labeling is pretty standard.

The limited number of floorplans for each model and the limited number of options available for each floorplan are some of the factors that result in the high volume low cost advantage that Winnebago has over the competition. Those very limited options also allow them to easily put design info online for all the models since there are not many variations in the design that need to be documented.

At the other extreme is Roadtrek who at times recently seems unlikly to build two vans that have the design, every day there is a new variation appearing, though these do seem to be continual design improvements so I give them credit for that.
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Old 05-05-2016, 03:16 PM   #14
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The factory looked like you would expect for the products they are building, although they do seem to have the independent lines mighty close together, which would probably limit efficiency a bit. Not too clean, not to messy, in my opinion, as it is easy to go off both ends of the scale, so looks good to me.

I really don't envy the job whomever has to balance all those lines has, with all the products, and all the options. This is always a problem for assembly line products that have a lot of variables, as the entire line is limited by the single choke point. Add an operation to station, have a new employee there, etc, and everything slows down, except the schedule. With a build that requires "moderate" skill levels like this, it is difficult to have enough highly trained "floats" that can drop into any position to cover sick or vacationing employees. The somewhat random quality mentioned would probably be limited to one or two of the areas of a particular van, as there was an issue at a single operation position.

All that said, if done well, the process will give much better output and quality, if you need to make a lot of product. Training time is much lower than having one or two people build the whole van in a workstation and then have multiple workstations.

It is interesting that when we toured the Roadtrek factory in 2009, and had them fix a bunch of quality issues on our van, they had just shifted from an assembly line model to individual, pull in, work stations. They would back out and drive the vans to the next station when it was time to move them, which meant the vans always had to be drivable at the various stages. It appeared they had just left the old inline stations in the same relative places, but not in the lane which was open. It also meant the center aisle had to always be open to be able to move the vans around. It appeared to be bordering on chaos, when we were there.

The reasoning for the change, that we were told, was that with line based system if they had a problem with a particular van or operation, it would stop the entire line until it got fixed. While this can certainly be an assembly line issue, dumping the entire premise because of it seems to be a poor choice. The logical thing would be to get rid of the problems that would hold up everything long enough make a significant difference, by better engineering and quality control, etc. You can also do a "resubmit" on a problem van where let it continue on down the line without further work on it, except to address the problem if that is possible, and then just re-enter it into the line to move until it gets to the spot to continue. It didn't appear they would have enough room in their old setup to be able to pull a unit offline and then resubmit in place, which would be even better.

With the pull in workstations, it did appear that for many of them, they would have been better off to modularize the tools and parts to go to the stationary van, than have to move the van all the time.

I would expect that with Hymer at the controls, you will see a return to assembly line processes, if they haven't already gone that way.
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Old 05-05-2016, 03:40 PM   #15
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If you look at a Hymer price list / options list in Europe they have a seemingly vast number of options available for every model. They must have a pretty sophisticated manufacturing process to get the quality they have with the number of options available to the buyer.

I am not sure that a team based assembly process is inherently less capable than an assembly line process but the worker training and skills would be significantly different.
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Old 05-05-2016, 04:37 PM   #16
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I think you can see why a B cost more. I don't think an assembly line method will work as easily especially for low volume production. Working inside an already assembled van makes it more difficult. Assembly line pressures often lead to mistakes because any slowdown for one B slows them all down. Bay assembly allows multiple tasks to take place such as the lift and ladder technique mentioned, or catchup work. Bay assembly is probably better for customization. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about this but moving the Bs to different stations seem to me more efficient than moving tools and support materials around if working in bays.

The St. Andrews Great West Van facility did somewhat of an assembly line technique which was really just a straight line of bay stations. The interesting aspect of their operation was you could readily see the Bs in understandable chronological order of assembly. When the new owners took over and moved it to Winnipeg the assembly was more chaotic. It seemed as if they could deal with one or two Bs at a time. They didn't have much space. Then those auction photos in Alabama were rather disturbing but it doesn't take long for an abandoned plant to get that way.

Advanced RV does the bay assembly moving Bs in and out. They also work simultaneously on the lift to work under and ladder up to work inside. I think ARV has to do it that way because rarely are two Bs anything alike in line and there are no consistent or fixed list of options.
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Old 05-05-2016, 05:39 PM   #17
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If you look at a Hymer price list / options list in Europe they have a seemingly vast number of options available for every model. They must have a pretty sophisticated manufacturing process to get the quality they have with the number of options available to the buyer.

I am not sure that a team based assembly process is inherently less capable than an assembly line process but the worker training and skills would be significantly different.
Key to that must be assembling work packages for each van. You bundle up the parts and bring them out to the vehicle. I can't imagine any other way to keep things straight. Going and fetching individual items from a checklist out at the vehicle would be a nightmare.
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Old 05-05-2016, 06:42 PM   #18
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Key to that must be assembling work packages for each van. You bundle up the parts and bring them out to the vehicle. I can't imagine any other way to keep things straight. Going and fetching individual items from a checklist out at the vehicle would be a nightmare.
For work like this on a line, kitting is essential, and has to be done 100% before the product hits the line, probably with a confirmation inspection which also helps reduce mistakes. The last thing you want is to have something in the middle of the line and discover you don't have the parts, as it is 100% preventable.
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Old 05-05-2016, 10:52 PM   #19
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Then those auction photos in Alabama were rather disturbing but it doesn't take long for an abandoned plant to get that way.
Here are some views of the GWV Winfield facility in production.

IMG_5594.jpg

IMG_5596.jpg

IMG_5603.jpg

IMG_5610.jpg

IMG_5611.jpg

It was nothing fancy, and still a work in progress, but as you see, it was a spacious floor and pretty well set-up as a kind of assembly line in which they moved the vans from station to station as they progressed. It could have scaled up quite a bit, I think. Kind of sad.

Their fiberglass fab facility was there, too.
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Old 05-06-2016, 02:32 AM   #20
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Yes it is sad. I've been in 3 different car assembly plants that have closed or were closing, depressing is all I can say.
I've been in the WGO main plant in Forest City. Pretty impressive for what their product mix was at the time, although, it was very crowded with materials, tools etc, but clean
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