The South Bend Tribune reported that Elkhart-based Lippert executives announced Friday (April 4) that the company has entered into an agreement to lease the massive warehouse at Olive and Sample streets for 12 1/2 years. They plan to add hundreds of jobs.
The company, which supplies a wide range of components to the RV, manufactured housing, bus and other industries, will consolidate its aftermarket parts sales and customer support services at the 530,000 square feet building.
Lippert’s plans to expand into South Bend were revealed last month at a meeting of the city’s Redevelopment Commission.
It was welcome news for city officials and business leaders, who have tried to find a new occupant for A.J. Wright’s massive warehouse since the discount retailer closed it in February 2011, putting almost 700 people out of work. Holladay Properties bought the building with a partner in 2012 and renamed it the Interstate 80 Commerce Center.
Lippert will lease the entire building — which is large enough to cover nine football fields — but it will sublet a portion of it to Bimbo Bakeries’ logistics company. Bimbo has a bakery in Elkhart.
The two companies plan to employ a total of 180 people at the site by the end of this year with wages starting at $12.50 per hour.
Lippert envisions taking over the entire facility in five or six years, and adding another 200 jobs there during the next 10 years. The property also has enough land for an expansion that would enable a large-scale manufacturing operation that could employ as many as 700 people.
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Lippert Components Inc. (LCI) has entered into a 12 1/2-year agreement to lease a 539,000-square-foot building in South Bend, Ind., where it will consolidate its aftermarket parts sales and customer support services operations.
“We are excited about the opportunities that South Bend brings to Lippert Components,” said LCI President Scott Mereness. “We believe this new facility will allow us to better serve our customers, both inside and outside Elkhart County. Additionally, the space at this facility provides us room for future growth, while expanding into South Bend allows us to tap into a new pool of talented employees.”
LCI will immediately begin equipping the South Bend building and hiring employees for warehousing, distribution and light manufacturing operations. A portion of the space will be occupied by LCI’s customer service and aftermarket call centers, dealer technician training areas and a large showroom that will display LCI’s broad line of products. The showroom will not only be used to showcase products to customers, but will also accommodate hands-on dealer training.
“This state-of-the-art facility gives us the opportunity to continue our growth. Having one central location for our aftermarket parts distribution and customer service team enables us to provide prompt and efficient service to our customers on a more consistent basis. Providing customer service in a way that promotes future business is our first priority,” said LCI Vice President of Aftermarket Parts and Customer Service April Klein. “This move is a testament to our commitment to our customers. From expanded shipping hours to hands-on dealer training, we are proud of what our team has accomplished and we are excited to take it to the next level.”
Mereness emphasized that larger facilities allow the company to consolidate operations, improve efficiency and make room for future expansion. “In addition to the new leased facility in South Bend, we have also leased a 366,000-square-foot building in Goshen,” said Mereness. “This new facility in Goshen will be used to combine our rapidly growing furniture and mattress operations.”
“Our success over the last few years has caused us to outgrow our current space,” said Ryan Smith, LCI Vice President of Lippert Interiors. “We believe that consolidating our furniture and mattress teams will streamline and further refine our manufacturing process, as well as improve product quality. Further, product demand continues to grow and this new space will provide us the room we need to grow.”
Mereness said LCI’s new Goshen and South Bend facilities are large enough to allow future expansion to aid the company in meeting the demands of the steadily growing RV industry. “We require these larger buildings to accommodate the industry’s current rate of growth. Further expansion will be evaluated as necessary in order to continually lead the industry with innovative products and excellent customer service.”
Lippert Components Inc. (LCI) announced that Keystone RV Co.’s Sprinter travel trailer brand now features its Solera Power Awning, complemented by the recently introduced awning LED lights and awning speaker.
“The Solera Power Awning has been very popular with our customers since we began installing it standard two years ago. Customers love that it’s so easy to adjust and has simple manual override,” said Sprinter Product Manager Josh Miller in a press release. “We are excited LCI recently introduced its new awning speakers and lights so we can provide another awesome upgrade for our customers.”
The wall-mounted Solera Awning LED lights reflect off the coach, providing optimum lighting while utilizing minimal battery power. The patent-pending Solera awning speakers are located inside the two awning heads, providing excellent audio quality while directing sound to the campsite.
Andy Murray, LCI vice president of RV sales, emphasized that the new speakers also simplify installation for OEMs. “OEMs are tired of working with standard speakers that have to be installed on exterior walls, so customers asked us to design something better,” said Murray. “Previously, our customers were limited on speaker placement because they had to hide speaker wiring inside cabinets or find other creative spaces. Our innovative Solera awning speakers solve that problem. The awning heads act like speaker boxes, improving and amplifying sound.”
Miller believes Keystone Sprinter customers will enjoy these new features. “The LED lights provide better light for the patio so campers can enjoy outdoor fun later into the evening, and the unique speaker placement allows sound to carry down to the campsite rather than above it,” added Miller.
Sales Manager Jason Rattray of Alpin Haus RV in Amsterdam, N.Y., expects the new Solera awning speakers and lights to be very attractive to customers. “Our customers have loved the convenient Solera Awning,” said Rattray. “It is the only awning we carry that offers simple manual override, and we feel it’s easier to adjust than any other awning on the market. We are very excited to begin promoting the Solera LED lights and integrated speakers. Sprinter has been known to make camping easy, and these new Solera features will reinforce that reputation.”
The Solera Power Awning features the industry’s first easy-to-access manual override. Users can simply use a power drill to extend and retract the awning in case of power failure. The strong, anti-scuff, anti-mildew fabric is cold-crack protected up to minus 25 degrees and the awning’s friction joint allows users to easily adjust the pitch and does not require readjustment before retracting the awning.
Lippert Components Inc. (LCI) announced that Forest River Inc.’s new Work and Play Catalyst fifth-wheel toy hauler is the first model to feature the supplier’s touch-screen, Android-based Linc Pad wireless tablet to control several key functions.
According to a press release, Linc Pad technology allows Catalyst owners to control all three sliderooms, LCI’s six-point Level Up system, awning, awning lights, generator, tank monitor and, as an option, LCI’s Happijac bed lift.
RVers can control functions from within 50 feet of the fifth-wheel and monitor the progress of external functions from outside the RV. The Linc Pad can also be used to download Android-compatible applications, access the Internet, take photo and play games.
“We wanted our customers to have access to the most cutting-edge technology, and LCI’s Linc Pad and Linc wiring technology does it all,” said Kevin Finn, Forest River Work and Play general manager. “Customers can even upload their favorite music to the Linc Pad and listen to it using our integrated Bluetooth radio.”
Finn also emphasized the benefits of Linc technology for the manufacturing process. “Linc technology saves us money and time during manufacturing because it drastically reduces complicated wiring as it is wired to the master controller with a single data cable,” said Finn. “This saves us money on material, saves us time and promotes quality — less wiring means less opportunity for wires to mistakenly get disconnected or damaged during production.”
LCI Vice President of RV Sales Andy Murray believes customers are getting more comfortable with newer technology.
“Forest River is the first to make our Linc Pad standard on a fifth-wheel brand,” said Murray. “We have all seen electronic controls become the norm in the automotive industry in recent years, and it seems the RV industry is ready to start the same evolution. We are excited to offer a wireless platform that not only integrates all the critical RV functions, but also makes the manufacturing process easier for our customers.”
Goshen, Ind.-based supplier Lippert Components Inc. plans to bring 180 jobs this year to the former A.J. Wright distribution center on South Bend’s west side, with the possibility of adding hundreds more in coming years.
The South Bend Tribune reported that Lippert makes a broad range of components for the RV and manufactured housing industries.
The company plans to lease the whole building at 1902 W. Sample St. for 12 years and sublet half of it to another distribution company, city officials announced this morning.
Lippert executives are committing to creating 180 jobs this year with a wage of $12.50 per hour. The number of jobs is projected to reach 380 during the next 10 years.
The company envisions taking over the entire facility in five or six years and building an expansion for large-scale manufacturing that would employ up to 700 people at the site.
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The Lippert Components Inc. (LCI) automation team recently designed, built and installed a new cambering machine into its Goshen, Ind., axle manufacturing facility. According to a press release, the new machine nearly doubles production speed and significantly increases product precision, replacing an older model that will be retrofitted for the company’s west coast axle operation in Idaho.
“Every day we are focusing on product improvement, and this new machine is another step forward on our journey to improve every plant’s manufacturing processes,” said Vice President of Automation and Manufacturing Jeff Few. “We zeroed in on axles — a key product line for the company — and conducted extensive research before launching this new machine.”
Following lean manufacturing principles, LCI’s Automation team reviewed axle manufacturing processes, interviewed machine operators and identified areas that could be improved. The Automation tool and die team then designed and built a new, efficient machine using state-of-the art technology including servo control and precision drill units to produce more accurate camber. This machine detects tube size and centers each one for improved accuracy.
LCI Director of Automation Mark Howie emphasized the machine’s precision and efficiency. “The new machine has significantly improved axle quality and increased production speed and efficiency. It provides excellent accuracy of the cambering process. The camber tolerance is checked and corrected if needed prior to exiting the machine.”
Few said that this new machine’s success provides the team a strong foundation to plan further production improvements and develop new technology to enhance operating efficiencies. “We are very happy with the results of this new axle cambering machine and look forward to further improvements and automation initiatives.”
If a recreational vehicle can be fitted with a slideout room, why can’t a truck cab? That’s the question Scott McKinnon asked himself, which resulted in RV supplier Lippert Components Inc.’s entry into the semi truck marketplace.
Go By Truck News reported that McKinnon is a specialty sales manager for Elkhart, Ind.-based Lippert, which manufactures slideouts for RVs. It occurred to him that truck drivers face even greater space challenges than people traveling in an RV.
“There’s not too many truck stops with playgrounds and picnic tables and outside lounging areas where you can have a campfire or anything like an RV,” says McKinnon. “They’re pretty much locked into sleeping, staying and being in that truck.”
McKinnon began researching and developing a slideout for truck cabs about eight months ago, and he already has test models installed in two trucks. Kelvin Locklear, famous in the trucking community for his role on CMT’s “Trick My Truck” reality show, performed with the installation. Locklear plans to work with mechanics on both coasts to create a network of certified slide-out installers. Once the product has been proven on the aftermarket, it may be picked up by tractor manufacturers.
The slide-out extends from the back of the cab and measures 38 inches deep by 64 inches wide and 70 inches tall. It comes with two options: a king-size sleeper sofa or a dinette booth that converts into a bed. Options that pull down from the aero-dynamic space above the ceiling are in the works to allow customers more customization. The slide-outs use automated opening and closing functions, but they can also be closed manually in case of malfunction. The fact that they extend from the rear of the cab means they will not take up extra parking space when deployed. “We feel this is something the industry will latch on to very soon,” says Locklear. “It’s definitely cutting edge. Drivers are always trying to get more room, but you really can’t make the trucks any longer.” Lippert expects the slide-outs to cost no more than 10 percent of the tractor’s value. They add around 200 pounds of weight.
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An Elkhart, Ind.-based company with a knack for creating more space inside RVs wants to start doing the same for semi tractors.
The Elkhart Truth reported that Lippert Components Inc., the leading manufacturer of slideouts for recreational vehicles, is developing a slideout for semis to give long-haul truck drivers more living and storage space, said Scott McKinnon, specialty sales manager.
“There’s not too many truck stops with playgrounds and picnic tables and outside lounging areas where you can have a campfire or anything like an RV,” McKinnon said. “They’re pretty much locked into sleeping, staying and being in that truck.”
McKinnon said he’s been researching and developing the “heavy truck slide-out project” for eight months. He and a few Lippert colleagues recently traveled to Mooresville, N.C., a Charlotte suburb, to work on two test semis that Lippert uses to haul products.
Mooresville is the home of Outkast Customs, where semi mechanic Kelvin Locklear customizes semis, along with repairing semis and RVs that have been damaged in collisions.
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Drew Industries Inc. today (Feb. 27) announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Lippert Components Inc., has acquired Innovative Design Solutions Inc. (IDS), a Troy, Mich.-based designer, developer and manufacturer of electronic systems encompassing a wide variety of RV applications. According to a press release, IDS also manufactures electronic systems for automotive, medical and industrial applications.
“We are excited to have IDS and its employees join the Lippert Components family,” said Drew CEO Jason Lippert. “The talented team of engineers we have added from IDS are leaders in electronic systems for RVs and other industries. In the past several years, the IDS team, alongside the Lippert Components team, has been responsible for developing unique electronic products for the RV industry. IDS will now have an even sharper focus on developing innovative products for our RV customers, as well as customers in adjacent industries.”
IDS had annual sales of approximately $19 million in 2013, of which $13 million were attributed to Lippert. Lippert believes the additional product lines and diversified customer base will accelerate its expansion into adjacent industries. The purchase price was $36 million, of which $34.2 million was paid at closing from available cash and borrowings under the company’s $75 million line of credit, with the balance to be paid out annually over the subsequent three years, plus contingent consideration based on future sales. Drew expects the acquisition to be immediately accretive to earnings.
“The products IDS manufactures are central to the control of several RV components, including electronic leveling systems, jacks, lights, slide-out mechanisms, awnings, tire pressure monitoring systems, among others,” continued Lippert. “Many of IDS’s RV products are already included in components we sell, including a Wi-Fi enabled, touch-screen, Android-based device that enables RV owners to control several RV functions. Having multiple functions connected through one control device should help improve our customers’ manufacturing efficiencies, as well as provide a strong selling point for retail customers. Becoming the manufacturer of these products should also allow us to develop and deliver these products to our customers more efficiently.”
Rob Ford, former owner of IDS, has entered into an employment agreement with Lippert and will continue to manage the business. Ford noted, “We are pleased that the business we have worked so hard to grow will continue to be managed by our outstanding team. Electronics have become a larger part of day-to-day life, and our innovative team has continued to identify opportunities to bring ideas and improvements to the industries we supply.”
He added, “This acquisition provides a unique and exciting opportunity to bring modern electronics to RV manufacturers and the RV aftermarket, which will result in a better RV user experience. Combining Lippert Components’ and IDS’s experience and technologies should open up exciting opportunities for safety, control and interface electronic products. With the strategic, financial, sales and marketing support that Lippert Components provides, we are confident that the IDS business will continue to grow.”
Drew Industries Inc. announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Lippert Components Inc., has reached an agreement in principle to acquire certain assets and the business of Star Design LLC, an Elkhart, Ind.-based manufacturer of thermoformed sheet plastic products for the RV, bus and specialty vehicle industries.
Closing of the transaction, anticipated to take place within 30 days, is subject to completion of due diligence, agreement on final terms, the execution of definitive transaction documents and satisfaction of customary closing conditions. According to a press release, the purchase price is expected to be approximately $12 million, which would be paid at closing from available cash and borrowings under the Lippert’s $75 million line of credit.
“Star Design has an excellent management team, and a great reputation in the markets they operate,” said Drew President Scott Mereness. “And we look forward to the Star Design management, including Kevin Gipson, president of Star Design, continuing to serve existing customers after the transaction is completed. In 2013, we relocated our RV thermoforming plastic production from Texas to an Elkhart location large enough to accommodate expected growth. We have continued to grow our RV and specialty markets plastics business since then, and we are excited to boost further growth with the acquisition of Star Design.”
Lippert believes the additional product lines and diversified customer base will accelerate its expansion into specialty markets. Star Design has annual sales of approximately $10 million.
Star Design Chairman Kelly Rose, who will not remain with the business, believes he is leaving the company and operations team in good hands. “Star Design has experienced strong growth in the past few years, and we are confident Lippert Components will continue to strategically drive the business forward,” said Rose. “We also believe Lippert Components will benefit by adding our experienced team, and also provide the Star Design team with great opportunities for professional growth and advancement.”