This is the ninth in a series of articles written by motorhome manufacturers that address the subject of quality control. Recently, FMCA commercial members involved in the production of type A, type B, and type C motorhomes were invited to describe the quality-control strategies they have in place at their manufacturing facilities. Their stories appear monthly.
Quality is a way of life at Damon Corporation. Quality permeates every aspect of the way business is conducted, with an end goal of providing an RV experience that exceeds the expectations of customers. Each area of the company and every employee is involved in the quality process.
Quality begins with the initial design of a motorhome, which is highly focused on consumer input. This is supplemented with market research, as well as with dealer and sales staff input. As concept information is developed, it is reviewed and reconciled with the latest proven manufacturing processes, with chassis capacity and capability, and with supplied component quality and availability. Quality is designed into the product by developing and utilizing manufacturing processes that prevent or solve quality issues before they occur.
As the motorhome is developed, the most important factor is providing value to consumers. Damon’s company slogan is “Value by Design,” and a great deal of effort is applied to make sure every product has a substantial value advantage designed into it from the beginning. We strive to make sure a considerable portion of this value advantage comes in the form of outstanding quality and reliability.
All Damon motorhomes are designed and built to exceed or meet the following national codes: FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard), ANSI A119.2 (American National Safety Institute), NEC (National Electric Code), NFPA 70 (National Fire Protection Association), and RVIA Standards (Recreation Vehicle Industry Association). Inspectors unrelated to the company are invited into our production plants to carefully inspect manufacturing procedures and results to ensure that each code requirement has been met or exceeded.
In addition to third-party inspections, each week one or two randomly selected motorhomes are given a rigorous and comprehensive inspection by three members of our quality assurance staff. Particular emphasis is given to the fit and finish of the motorhomes as well as to ergonomics and to user-friendliness. Compliance with supplier component installation procedures is also ensured. Each week the president and CEO, along with the heads of engineering, manufacturing, and procurement, and each of the foremen who physically built the units, review the audit coaches, going through each item that comes up on an audit. Because the people with the decision-making power are on-site, looking at each actual problem, focused solutions to problems are developed rapidly. Following the audit review, the person or department head responsible for each audit item corrects them.
Also each week, a Quality Meeting is held and presided over by the head of quality assurance. The president and CEO and all of the personnel who attend the review of the audit coaches are present at the meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to communicate and resolve any cross-departmental quality issues, with primary emphasis on making sure quality solutions are implemented before motorhomes are shipped from the factory. Having all the necessary decision-makers on hand greatly enhances the timeliness of this process.
A substantial amount of time in the Quality Meeting is devoted to resolving any quality issues surrounding components purchased from suppliers. The vice president of procurement is responsible for providing feedback to suppliers for any quality issues that develop as a result of the parts they furnish. Along with engineering, he is also the primary provider to suppliers of new ideas and enhancements for components. Although rigorous testing and analysis of supplier components is done by our engineering staff, there is no substitute for having a supplier know it can lose Damon’s business should the vice president of procurement be made aware that components are not helping Damon meet its rigorous quality standards.
All Damon employees are involved in the quality effort. A wonderful tool we have to facilitate employee involvement is the engineering change request, or ECR. Any employee in the company can request a product or process change by submitting an ECR. This capability has greatly empowered our employees and has given us the brainpower of all employees in finding and resolving quality issues. With the ECR system, employees are no longer frustrated by a problem they feel hasn’t received proper attention. No longer are they frustrated because their good idea can’t be heard. Manufacturing employees — the people who actually build the coaches — have been a great source of ECRs. Our salespeople have submitted many ECRs also, by serving as a conduit for ideas from dealers and retail consumers. The ECR system has been a great success as a tool for constantly improving the quality, reliability, and user-friendliness of Damon motorhomes.
The positive attitude about quality is also evident in our service operations. As many RV owners know, it is frustrating to wait weeks for RV parts, or worse, receive the wrong part after weeks of waiting on it. These problems have been tackled head-on at Damon. Currently, parts are shipped on average two days after receipt of the order from a dealer. In fact, almost two-thirds of parts are shipped the same day the order is received, and the company’s part shipment accuracy now stands at 98 percent.
By now, we trust it is evident that Damon is structured to aggressively solve quality problems. Sure, we have in-line inspectors, final finish inspectors, and road test inspectors like most RV manufacturers. Yes, we read warranty claim reports and dealer acceptance reports, but inspections and reports are oriented toward problem detection, not problem resolution. All too often, quality programs fail because problems are detected but little is done about them. Follow-up is inadequate. The problem remains unresolved and is simply added to the pile of other unresolved problems. In contrast, Damon focuses on problem prevention at the time of initial design and problem resolution through Quality Meetings, comprehensive physical coach audits, and the ECR system. Problems are not just detected; they are solved. We are constantly raising the quality bar by ensuring that the number of unresolved problems is getting smaller and smaller and that the types of problems are also getting smaller and less consequential. The result is continuous improvement in the quality of our coaches, taking us ever closer to a goal of providing trouble-free motorhomes.
Damon is recognized by many as a company that stands behind its products. As part of its core values, Damon strives to structure its organization so as to interact with all parties in a manner in which they are treated with respect and equity. “Doing the right thing” is a way of life at Damon. Integrity is the watchword by which the company operates. Damon is committed to providing customers with recreation vehicles of the highest quality and value.