This is the 10th 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.
Newmar Corporation, established in 1968, is a leading recreation vehicle manufacturer and innovator in producing type A motorhomes, as well as fifth wheels and travel trailers. What began with six employees in an old fire station in rural Five Points, Indiana, an intersection of roads in Elkhart County, has grown to become a major corporation with 800 employees in Nappanee, Indiana.
Newmar is a nationally recognized company built on Christian principles. The company has been managed by Mennonites from the start and is founded in a community rich with hardworking and talented individuals. Newmar applies the principles of honesty, courtesy, morality, fairness, reasonableness, and reliability to customers, employees, suppliers, and financial institutions. Newmar is privately owned and has a dealer network that spans the United States and Canada.
Newmar’s products are on the cutting edge of the industry, and the company has introduced several innovations throughout the years, including the flat-floor power slideout. Quality is stressed throughout all manufacturing phases as Newmar focuses on building reliable products and offering the best customer service in the industry.
Newmar requires its employees, vendors, and dealers to offer products and services that provide the highest possible level of quality. Programs are in place to improve productivity as it relates to quality. In addition, suppliers and vendors are required to follow Newmar’s lead and offer a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty on their products. Dealers are continuously evaluated to be sure that retail customers are receiving the high level of service they deserve.
Newmar Corporation was recognized at the 2001 National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, with a 2001 Quality Circle Award from the National Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). The awards are presented to the top performers in the association’s annual Dealer Satisfaction Index (DSI) survey. RV dealers use the DSI survey to evaluate RV manufacturers’ performance in four major categories: sales support, product competitiveness, service and warranty support, and management. This is the third time Newmar has won a Quality Circle Award; the company also received the honor in 1996 and 1997.
Newmar is confident that it offers the highest-quality vehicles in the industry. To prove this, the company offers a three-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, excluding the batteries, tires, and chassis. (The chassis is covered by its own manufacturer’s warranty of at least 36 months.)
Newmar benefits from and takes great pride in a multi-tiered quality control plan called the Pride in Production (P.I.P.) program. Product quality begins with the vehicle’s concept and design, but true quality can be achieved only by the individuals involved in construction. So, Newmar periodically gives monetary awards to employees whose suggestions help to improve quality or lower costs. Most effective in the P.I.P. program is that should a quality control issue arise, an employee from the particular production department involved is required to correct it.
Kevin Bogan, Newmar’s vice president of manufacturing, explained, “Newmar’s thinking behind this program is that you can’t inspect quality into a product. Holding each production department responsible for its corrections reminds employees that they not only have to meet testing functions mandated by RVIA relating to the industry’s codes and standards, but also Newmar’s high quality standards.”
To ensure responsibility, each department on the production line is required to complete a quality checklist that is separate from the Quality Control Department’s checklist. This checklist verifies that the items under that department’s control are operating properly.
Every motorhome is subjected to a thorough 10-mile test drive, during which the unit’s automotive functions are tested and checks are made regarding vibration, wind noise, and brakes. In addition to the driver, another employee participating in the test listens for any shakes, rattles, vibrations, or other noises that need to be addressed.
Newmar products are put through a rigorous battery of other tests, including a rain bay test. Units are soaked with pressurized water while employees check for leaks with the slideout rooms closed and extended.
Newmar’s quality control program is administered through the company’s Quality Control Department. The department is composed of 10 inspectors, each assigned to particular production departments. The inspectors possess a list of required inspection items and code requirements for each of his or her departments to test on each vehicle. Inspectors develop working relationships with the floor personnel to promote quality manufacturing.
Completed vehicles are delivered to the Personal Touch Department, which reports directly to a vice president. Employees in this group conduct a pre-delivery inspection similar to the one performed by a Newmar dealer. Coach cleanliness and operation of all the appliances are verified a third time. Once the Personal Touch Department has completed its inspection, production employees are responsible for correcting any items in question.
Newmar also uses a vendor audit program in which our vendors are required to inspect the company’s production process and report any installation issues of concern. In turn, Newmar evaluates all suppliers and vendors twice a year in the areas of quality, deliveries, personnel, product development, design, and warranty as criteria for awards that it presents each year. To be invited to the Newmar vendor banquet, a company must score a 96 percent or higher.
Michael O’Connell, vice president of purchasing, said, “We are very conscientious of the products we offer in our vehicles. We know that whatever happens to a product — even if it’s not made by us — is ultimately a reflection on Newmar. Our customers don’t make a distinction between what we manufacture and what is supplied to us. That’s why we cannot accept second best.” He added that Newmar vendors who are invited to the banquet are “the best of the best;” they focus on customer service, build quality products, and offer a three-year warranty.
Newmar dealers are asked to provide adequate service facilities and to service transient customers. Quality service is expected, and to be sure that dealers are measuring up to Newmar standards, surveys are sent to retail customers who have had warranty work performed. Based on the results of these surveys, awards are presented to dealerships that score in the 90th percentile or higher.
“Newmar utilizes a third-party survey firm to survey all customers receiving warranty service,” explained Matt Utley, director of consumer affairs. “These surveys are tabulated based on the dealer that provided the service, not necessarily the selling dealer. This encourages dealers to service all Newmar customers regardless of where the coach was purchased, which is a requirement to be a Newmar dealer.”
Each year Newmar offers a three-day service school at its company headquarters, and encourages dealer service personnel to attend. Instruction covers everything from replacing ceramic floor tile to repairing fiberglass and adjusting slideouts. The service school gives dealer representatives a chance to get hands-on experience and learn directly from Newmar what is expected of them at their facilities.
Newmar incorporates quality into everyday life. We take pride in listening to our dealers and customers. Two dealer advisory boards have been formed; each board meets with Newmar management twice a year to offer suggestions about how Newmar can continue to improve its products. Many improvements have been made over the years as a result of these meetings. We listen to what our dealers have to say.
We put our customer suggestions first. New Newmar owners are surveyed shortly after they take delivery of a vehicle. Each member of our management team is required to read these surveys and incorporate suggestions into their respective department as necessary. We use this information to build products that will satisfy our customers and match the high level of quality we strive to maintain. Kevin Bogan noted, “Meeting or exceeding customer expectations and continuing to raise the level of quality is what we work hard every day to achieve.”
Newmar’s philosophy of quality control is not just that of satisfying code requirements, but building a product that each employee would be proud to own and use. This personal ownership and the collaborative effort of various departments and vendors facilitate Newmar’s production of what we believe are the finest-quality motor coaches manufactured today.