Last fall, Open Range RV became the first towable manufacturer to adopt a semi-robotic sealing system for its exterior windows produced by Seal Design, an affiliate of Elkhart, Ind.-based Dicor Corp.
According to a press release, Seal-Tite has made the placement of window sealants more precise and error-free, eliminating the hand application of such sealants that often resulted in inconsistent quality.
When a window is prepared for installation on a typical assembly line, a butyl tape or foam sealant is applied to the window where it attaches to the wall. However, installers frequently have trouble keeping the tape or foam from stretching around the corners where it can create small gaps at those points, or elsewhere where it may also be unevenly stretched.
Accordingly, a caulk or cap sealant is often applied around the window once it is in place to provide an additional barrier to water intrusion. However, such caulking can eventually break down or be unevenly applied as well, leading to window leaks that can damage the RV and make for an expensive repair job.
The Seal-Tite system involves a quick-set, hot melt sealant that can be precisely and optimally sized for a particular window type and applied in a consistent bead by a hand-assisted robotic arm in a matter of seconds. In addition, the need for a cap sealant is virtually eliminated.
“There’s nothing else like it in the industry,” said Seal Design General Manager Greg Kelly. “Open Range has really taken the lead on this as a real solution to window leaks, and we intend to alert RV buyers to this with a special sticker to certify that a particular RV has been built using this process.”
Open Range’s leak testing showed consistent, near perfect test results over the course of hundreds of windows a day. The company expects to initiate a similar process for sealing entrance doors and exterior hatches.
“At Open Range we are continually trying to improve on everything that we do,” said Jason Martin, director of product development for the Shipshewana, Ind.-based builder. “If there’s something new out there, we take time to look at it and see if it works for us.”
Marketing Coordinator Josh Streich noted, “As the only RV company with this kind of technology for eliminating window leaks, it adds another distinguishing feature to our towable products. More room and less weight are features that distinguish us in the marketplace, and now we can add leak reduction as well.”
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.”
The newly developed automated Seal-Tite Sealing System for RV windows, doors and moldings from Seal Design, a Dicor Corp. affiliate, has performed well on RV production lines, reports General Manager Greg Kelly.
According to a press release, the Seal-Tite Sealing System uses an automatic hand-assist sealing platform that lays down a consistent, pre-programmed bead size for sealing windows, baggage and entrance doors, storage hatches, exterior outlets and other exterior accessory components. The dispensing system, controlled by the operator with the help of an x/y automatic assist mechanism, will dispense the same size bead of Seal-Tite hot melt sealant no matter how fast or slow the operator works.
A complete system was initiated by Open Range RV Co. and operational set-up for RV windows began in July. By early fall the system was averaging 250 windows a day with one man operating the controls for six hours. Previously it would have taken eight men to do the same number of windows using hand taping procedures in two separate plants, Kelly said.
With a completely consistent bead of the quality sealant, air-tight product testing showed a virtual zero defect for 250 windows a day. In addition, Kelly estimates that the initial upfront savings to be substantial per month.
“Manufacturers can realize a return on investment just on the elimination of cap seal material, scrap and inventory costs alone,” said Kelly. “The big thing this system does is simplify things. Training is simplified, production is simplified, space considerations are simplified, inventory and the inventory accounting process are simplified. Furthermore, we’ve developed a leasing program that makes the initial cost very affordable.”
But the biggest payoff is yet to be realized, said Kelly. “That will come when we start seeing results from the units that have been constructed with the help of this system that are now in use,” said Kelly. “When we start seeing a reduction in leak problems and warranty claims, that will be the big payoff for our customers.”
“What we are doing right now with this system and with our customers is a process of continuous improvement. We are helping our customers integrate this into production processes among other things. We expect to soon start using this system for sealing all exterior doors and moldings as well.”
A major RV manufacturer will start integrating a fully XYZ automatic footprint of the system into its production process in February. Seal Design is also working with several other major manufacturers on an automated process for applying exterior moldings. “What we’re working toward is a complete, automatic sealing process for the entire exterior of the RV,” said Kelly.
Kelly sees these initiatives as “industry-changing steps toward a more automotive approach to RV production and quality. Quite simply, we’re introducing more control, including much more quality control, into the RV manufacturing process which, in terms of things like leaks and warranty claims, promises to be a big win for consumers and manufacturers.”
For more information about this and other Seal Design products, visit www.sealdesignllc.com. SealTite will be part of the Dicor booth (North Wing Lobby, Hall 2A) during the Dec. 3-5 Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) 51st National RV Trade Show in Louisville Ky.
When Dicor Corp. President Gregg Fore gets involved in something, it’s never halfway. And so it was that Fore, an RV industry supplier and immediate past chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), dove head first this summer and fall into a unique “Men in Kilts” charity fund drive on behalf of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Michiana.
The inevitable result was that Fore last week (Oct. 24) took the stage with the other nine participants in the 5th Annual Men in Kilts campaign at a 400-person benefit dinner at South Bend’s Hilton Garden Inn as the top fund-raiser.
For his efforts in traipsing around Elkhart dressed fashionably in a kilt visiting health clubs, jewelry stores and sedate business offices in an effort to attract attention to the plight of the Ronald McDonald House, Fore succeeded in raising $67,000 dollars from about 160 donors as part of a campaign that ended up netting a total of $270,000. The Ronald McDonald House oversees “Family Room” operations at nearby South Bend Memorial Childrens Hospital,
In the process, Fore and his campaign’s “Gforce” staff, led by Larry Lebryk, Dicor’s director of marketing, Tina Sharkey, sales manager for affiliated United Shade, and friend Becci Zook, smashed the five-year-old Men in Kilts fund-drive record of $22,000,
“We took two or three days during the process – and then some later as well – where we toured the county, stopping at customers and some other suppliers,” said Fore. “We stopped at specific areas, some potential donors and took photos. We posted them on Facebook (see link below) and put them on our website (www.greggsleggs). We had some videos made and put on our website that poked even more fun at who we were and what we were doing in a self-effacing way – always bringing it back to the seriousness of the cause.”
Fore’s campaign staff also hosted a special Aug. 27 benefit at Elkhart’s 523 Tap & Grill, with proprietor George Anagnos donating a percent of his proceeds.
“Our goal was to go out and be the leading fundraiser, not because winning the fundraising contest was all that important in itself,” Fore said of the campaign, which injects a little fun and levity into a charity that serves as many as 9,000 families a year for the South Bend Memorial Childrens Hospital. “What’s important is the number of people that those dollars help. We were able to reach out and touch a large segment of Elkhart County and across the country in some cases. So, yeah, it was a lot of fun and it turned out great.”
For more information visit the “Men in Kilts” Facebook page by clicking here.
Mark Royce has joined United Shade as director of all purchasing functions for its three facilities.
According to a press release, he will be part of the United Shade executive team, helping to streamline materials management and developing efficient product flow in and out of facilities and production lines.
Royce has worked in the RV industry for more than 20 years, all of it in the purchasing departments of several major RV manufacturers.
“We’re excited to have Mark’s in-depth knowledge of purchasing at the OEM level now working for United Shade,” said Braden McCormick, president of United Shade, an affiliate of Elkhart, Ind.-based Dicor Corp. “This will be a great benefit in our relationships with manufacturers and suppliers. We expect him to be an integral part of managing our company’s growth.”
For more information visit www.unitedshade.com.
In all fairness, it takes some guts to walk around the conservative Northern Indiana community of Elkhart in a kilt, making personal appearances at restaurants, health clubs and driving ranges in this uniquely Scottish garb.
“Yeah, that’s what some people say, but if you believe in what you’re doing, it doesn’t make any difference,” insists Gregg Fore, the outspoken president of Elkhart, Ind.-based Dicor Corp., who was persuaded by a Mishawaka publisher to participate in this year’s “Men in Kilts” fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Michiana, which oversees “Family Room” operations at nearby South Bend Memorial Childrens Hospital.
Fore, immediate past chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), is actually one of 10 area men who have agreed to serve as fundraising leaders this year by doing personal appearances around northern Indiana’s Elkhart and St. Joseph counties as part of the five-year-old “Men in Kilts” program. Fore told RVBUSINESS.com that the 10 participants will compete to become the top fundraiser with a cutoff date of Oct. 24.
To do so, Fore has enlisted his campaign “staff,” comprised of Larry Lebryk, Dicor’s director of marketing, Tina Sharkey, sales manager for United Shade, and friend Becci Zook. Initially, the team spent time learning about South Bend’s Ronald McDonald facility, which operates year-round on a 12/7 basis with two paid staff members, 120 volunteers and an annual budget of $350,000. Of that total, Fore reports, $30,000 comes from the McDonalds Corp. while $100,000 is derived from coin collector devices located in McDonald’s restaurants and the rest from assorted donations.
South Bend’s facility provides day rooms, a full kitchen, computer hookups, laundry and three overnight rooms for families whose dependent children are seeking medical care at Memorial.
“They serve an average of 25 families per day,” says Fore, who plans to personally match the largest singular donation (currently $2,500) and might be seen next Monday (July 1) at local fire and law enforcement facilities. “And they have a hot meal every night for whoever is there. So, they raised $112,000 last year in the ‘Men in Kilts’ fundraiser, and the lead guy did about $22,000. And my intention is to go over $30,000.”
United Shade, an affiliate of Elkhart, Ind.-based Dicor Corp., is rolling in new equipment to help meet growing demand from RV manufacturers for two of its roller shade products.
In another indication of an improving RV market and market share growth, the company also continues to add personnel dedicated to roller shade production.
According to a press release, the new machinery includes CNC automated fabric cutting equipment that more than doubles current capabilities. New CNC automated heat sealing equipment has already doubled current sealing capacity.
“We are very pleased with the acceptance of our SmartRise and SmartPower products,” said Braden McCormick, president of United Shade. “This confirms that we have offered a product with the right features, price point and convenience. We are very excited about the positive momentum we have created, and the investment we’ve just made in this equipment should give a real boost to our manufacturing capacity and our ability to meet current and future industry needs.”
Product lines include SmartRise roller shades, which provide cordless lifting options for different kinds of day and day-night configurations. The company’s SmartPower roller shades feature advanced materials, components, motors and installation systems to provide push-button shade control from either a wall switch, remote control or key fob.
“It appears we’ve delivered what RV manufacturers are looking for in terms of shade innovation,” said McCormick. “Now we want our manufacturing partners to understand that we’re committed to making the investments needed to deliver for their production schedules as well.”
United Shade’s products also offer several residential-style features, including multiple light blocking and light filtering options, and convenient cordless operation.
Elkhart, Ind.-based supplier Dicor Corp. will continue to build on what has become a popular series of RV “instructional” videos focused on various aspects of RV care and improvement.
According to a press release, upcoming videos are expected to spotlight such topics as coating systems for rubber; fiberglass and metal roofs; how to properly seal the installation of a new skylight as well as a roof vent, plumbing vent, refrigerator vent or TV antenna; how to properly seal trim strips; and how to measure for new shades and blinds.
“We just believe that getting more information out to the RV consumer is helpful in improving their RV experience,” said Dave Majewski, vice president of aftermarket sales. “And improving the RV experience is what we all should be doing as an industry.”
The current video series introduced by Dicor’s Rudy character has gone over well because it presents “the kind of clear and easy-to-digest information about maintaining and improving RVs that a lot of people are looking for,” said Majewski.
Dicor is the leading supplier of roofing material for the industry and best known in the aftermarket for its high-quality lap sealants and stainless steel wheel covers and simulators. In recent years it has expanded its presence in the RV aftermarket through new products and its series of roof care videos. Dicor is also one of the leading sponsors of the upcoming RVB Power Breakfast
“These videos help give the RV consumer a direct connection to the OEM level of expertise available in the industry, which RVers really appreciate,” said Majewski. “RV manufacturers and suppliers know the ‘best practices’ for doing these things, so why shouldn’t we share them? Among other things, it really strengthens our bond with the RV consumer.”
To view the most recent videos, go to the Dicor Products website at http://www.dicorproducts.com/resources/care.
Elkhart, Ind.-based supplier Dicor Corp. announced its sponsorship of the first “RV Industry Power Breakfast” May 9 at the RV/MH Hall of Fame Northern Indiana Event Center. According to a press release, scheduled presenters include U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) President and CEO Jim Rogers.
Developed and facilitated by RVBusiness magazine, this is the first such event to bring together the leadership of major RV-related companies, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), executive staff, economic experts and government leadership for a special conference in Elkhart. It will provide an opportunity to address the future of the industry through a series of thought-provoking, informative speakers representing different industry perspectives. Other sponsors include the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County, Forest River Inc., GE Capital, KOA, Spartan Motors Inc. and Thor Industries Inc.
“We appreciate the opportunity to support this event,” said Gregg Fore, president of Dicor and immediate past chairman of RVIA, who will offer opening remarks at the event. “The decision by RVBusiness to hold it in Elkhart makes sense. I think you get a better picture of the challenges and solutions you’re facing when you’re speaking to the community, to the people that put the plans into action. Hopefully the analysis and ideas this forum provides will inspire us in our efforts both as individual companies and collectively as an industry, to continue to work together and stay ahead of the continuing recovery.”
The breakfast runs from 7-10:30 a.m. on May 9. Tickets are $25 per person through April 25 and $30 after that date. Tables are also available and may be reserved by April 25. Online registration will be available on the RVBUSINESS.com website soon.
That’s the message Dicor is spreading at the 50th Annual National RV Trade Show underway this week in Louisville, Ky.
At the company’s “Center of Amazing” display in the North Wing Lobby, Hall 2A in the Kentucky Exposition Center, visitors see a variety of new impact products. Among them:
- Vixen FRP — a new breakthrough family of products that address different application and finish requirements for sidewalls and panels.
- New EPDM roofing in the color tan. Coordinate graphics with that. Also — new, more pliable TPO roofing that makes it easier to install a quality roof.
- New manufacturing robotics for better quality seals for windows, doors and exterior hatches. With amazing manufacturing efficiencies.
- A buzz of new shade products, including remote control capabilities, to further evolve interior RV window treatments into the 21st century.
- New aftermarket sealants, cleaners and repair kits to take care of RVs.
- Lightweight PolyStone solid surface material: first-class countertops at half the weight.
- To help beat the heat, Dicor Products introduces CoolCoat, a new heat-reducing coating for EPDM RV roofs.