The RV industry is anxious for significant innovation says Gregg Fore, president of Elkhart, Ind.-based Dicor Corp.
According to a press release, the response to a number of new products from Dicor companies at the recent National RV Show in Louisville, Ky., including a revolutionary new system for sealing windows, drove the point home. Fore credits the improved economy and outlook in the RV industry for “creating a climate where RV manufacturers are willing to take a serious look at some new opportunities.”
“During the upturn of the last few years we’ve witnessed an acceleration of innovation by both OEMs and suppliers and we are confident that the acceleration will not only continue but the speed of it will actually increase,” said Fore. “Our belief is that OEMs are ready to capitalize on these new innovations and secure a strategic advantage in the marketplace through flexibility and streamlined operations.”
Automated window sealing system
One example was the interest shown by major RV manufacturers in the semi- and fully-automated window sealing system called Seal-Tite. Available from Dicor’s Seal Design affiliate, Seal-Tite is the first cross-link hot melt sealant that is process friendly and eliminates the need for multiple sealants. Open Range RV Co. was the first manufacturer to use the system this past year. The results Open Range achieved in reducing waste, inventory and labor costs, as well as eliminating many SKU’s, has now made the system “real” to RV manufacturers, said Fore, adding “The facts and figures are now proven with actual experience. It’s a capital investment, but with an exceptional return for the manufacturer.”
Greg Kelly, general manager of Seal Design, said he will soon be meeting with more than five major RV manufacturers who expressed keen interest in the system at the show. “The video presentation of Open Range’s success really brought home to them the efficiency, consistency and long-term product improvement, plus the incredible cost savings,” said Kelly. “They got it. I had several OEMs telling me how much sense this makes.”
The Seal-Tite hand assist system allows Open Range to put down a consistent, one-step quality seal in a matter of seconds per window, enabling one person to seal an average of 250 windows per day. Kelly estimates Open Range is saving thousands of dollars a month on waste material alone, not to mention reduced labor costs and reduced inventory storage. Moreover, Kelly is confident that even more cost savings will be achieved in reduced warranty claims. Another RV manufacturer is scheduled to start integrating a space-saving, fully automatic vertical version of the system into its production process early next year.
Fore added that the return on investment with a Seal-Tite system is not just in terms of money, but in “the change in culture” that this automotive-like, robotic operation achieves. “This is the first time in a very long time that I see movement toward paying significant attention to water infiltration,” he said. “Manufacturers are now more willing to look at innovative ways of addressing this issue.”
New composite and FRP panels
Dicor’s Vixen Composites affiliate also plugged into manufacturers’ desire for innovation and differentiation with a wide range of lightweight synthetic or wood core panel options aimed at reducing weight while at the same time maintaining strong structural integrity. Vixen’s composite panel products include cores of balsa, PET, honeycomb, polyiso foam, OSB, and luan. “These panels really speak to our core manufacturing competencies. I think manufacturers who saw the display truly appreciated the flexibility in construction that these panels provide,” said Gordon Frost, general manager.
Vixen Composites also introduced new FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic) offerings in a variety of finishes featuring a high-gloss finish with better damage resistance. “The 2013 Louisville show was the best we’ve had in terms of interest, acceptance and requests for samples to prototype walls,” said Frost. “Our European supplier has really embraced the needs of the RV market and has adjusted its manufacturing to meet those needs.”
More exterior design options
For OEMs looking for exterior design options, Dicor’s affiliate, Dicor Products, introduced a fourth color to its already popular family of DiFlex II offerings. Ivory is the newest of the non-fleece backed TPO membranes. Other colors include dove (bright white), grey and tan in the flexible and UV resistant TPO roof membranes.
Fore noted that non-motorized manufacturers are “going to great lengths to differentiate their products in terms of appearance, which is becoming increasingly hard for them to do. So offerings like new roofing colors and new FRP finishes create additional flexibility in the design process.”
Dealers see aftermarket opportunities
For dealers at the show, a couple of relatively simple products garnered attention in the Dicor display. Seal Design’s Touch-n-Seal spray-in, insulating foam, originally marketed for OEMs, was well received by dealers and distributors along with United Shade’s Spray ‘n Brush aftermarket cleaner for shades. “They were really pleased that we had something for this purpose. This filled a void in the marketplace.” said Tina Sharkey, sales manager for United Shade.
United Shade also rolled out a plan that would create certified installers for its roller shades. “We put it out there to get feedback from dealers. Based on the positive response, it looks like something we will move forward with,” said Sharkey.
Roller shades continue to be one of United Shade’s most popular products and now seem to be migrating to fifth-wheels and towables as well as Class A motorhomes, said Sharkey.
“From a company standpoint, one of our goals with this show is to open our customers’ eyes to the potential for the use of new components and new technologies coming down the road,” said Fore. “That strategy worked exceedingly well for us this year, and with the market performing well and the optimistic outlook for next year, we were able to do a lot of forward thinking with customers that will bear fruit in the coming months.
“Coming out of Louisville, I’m very excited about what’s happening with RV innovation right now, not only from our affiliated companies, but from other suppliers and manufacturers as well. I’m looking forward to what the next year will bring.”