RV factory tours have never been our first choice for road trip entertainment. But one day after finding ourselves near the town where ours was built, we got to see exactly how ours was constructed. It was one of the best detours we ever made, and now we wish we had done it sooner. Here’s why.
The RV Factory Tour Made Us Love Our RV Even More
Our eye-opening experience took place at Northwood Manufacturing in La Grande, Oregon. As owners of two of the company’s Arctic Fox fifth wheels, we were already loyal brand evangelists. So when my husband and I recently found ourselves driving near the plant, we took advantage of the company’s generous factory tours that are open to the public.
It was our lucky day. We were the only tour participants on the tour, but sometimes a dozen or more people can show up. Since it was just us two, we got to ask tons of questions about our 275-B model built in 2010.
Building RVs is a Team Effort
On a busy Tuesday afternoon, Rob Miller, Northwood’s sales administrator and lively tour guide, led us up to the factory’s mezzanine level loft. While RVs got built and assembled, we stood and watched the assembly process. Nearly two hundred employees worked in sync to build and assemble their latest trailers, fifth wheels and truck bed campers. Watching the team effort from high above the production line was a fascinating look into the hands-on methods that turned RVs into homes on wheels.
“Cars are built by robots, but RVs are built by people,” explained Rob. Until the day he showed us around, we had no idea of the extent to which RVs are made with human hands.
We’ll never look at our RV—or any rig—the same way again. For example, take a good look at your RV. The walls, doors, windows, cabinets, flooring, fabric and color scheme, etc. There might be a thousand other rigs by the same company that look just like yours, but the process to make each one of them happened one step at a time. Human hands touched every part of your rig from the roof to the wheels and everything in-between.
Like automobile manufacturing, the RV building process utilizes modern technology. But the majority of the building process is done manually, such as laying the foundation, laminating the walls and router cutting window and door openings. During our tour we learned that Northwood is proud to design, builds and assemble almost all rig components at the factory, a rare claim in this world of automation and robots.
From the wheels to the roof and everything in-between, we stopped at different production stations to watch the building process. Along the way Rob explained what makes Northwood’s RVs stand out from others, such as their choice of insulation and aluminum grades. Once we got to see the skeleton and higher grades of materials that ultimately justify Arctic Fox’s higher than average retail cost, we felt an all new pride of ownership for our purchase.
At each pit-stop Rob also spent time answering our burning questions, such as what kind of lap sealant they use for seam sealing. He even offered plenty of maintenance tips that will serve us well in the future.
Two hours later we exited the plant, and admired the dazzling new Arctic Fox fifth wheels fresh off the assembly line. Tall and striking in the hot Oregon sunlight, they stirred up a little RV envy in my mind. But by the time I got home, I fell in love with my own rig all over again. Knowing what lays underneath my feet, over my head and behind every wall brings a sense of confidence I never had before about my own rig. The tour was two of the best hours we’ve spent since becoming RVers.
If you have the chance to take a RV factory tour, do it! Have a list of questions prepared and get ready to learn all the exciting ways that RVs make the outdoor lifestyle more fun than ever.
About the author: Rene Agredano
Rene Agredano, a Coach-Net member since 2015, is a self-employed full-time RVer who enjoys writing, jewelry design and animal advocacy. Her adventures with a three-legged dog and husband Jim are chronicled at LiveWorkDream.com
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