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.”
Drew Industries Inc, parent to RV and manufactured home suppliers Lippert Components Inc. and Kinro Inc., today (Feb. 13) reported a double-digit increase in sales for its fourth quarter – driven by strong performance in its RV segment – while topping $1 billion in revenue for the full year.
Sales in the fourth quarter increased to $225 million, 12% higher than the 2012 fourth quarter. Net income totaled $11.1 million, or 46 cents per diluted share, compared to $4.7 million, or 21 cents per diluted share.
Revenue for the year increased by $114 million to a record $1.02 billion from the year prior while net income rose to $50.1 million, or $2.11 per diluted share, from net income of $37.3 million, or $1.64 per diluted share.
Fourth-quarter sales growth was primarily the result of a 16% increase by Drew’s RV segment, which accounted for 88% of consolidated net sales this quarter. In addition, sales of recently introduced components for towable and motorhome RVs increased, as did sales to adjacent industries and the aftermarket.
“The retail demand for RVs in 2013 was the largest the industry has experienced since 2007,” said Jason Lippert, CEO for Elkhart, Ind.-based Drew. “The RV lifestyle continues to grow in popularity each year. Although the RV industry is sensitive to economic conditions, we are optimistic about the potential for continued long-term growth in retail demand for RVs. The strong industry fundamentals combined with our sales gains are positive signs for the future. We strive to maintain our position as a leading supplier to the industries we serve by staying ahead of the market through innovation and investing in customer support resources.”
For the year, Drew’s RV segment sales increased 14% compared to the 10% increase in industrywide wholesale shipments of travel trailers and fifth-wheel RVs. Sales growth in new markets and new products continued to be key factors in enabling Drew’s sales to exceed RV industry growth rates.
In addition, Drew continued to grow outside its core RV and manufactured housing markets, with aggregate net sales of components for adjacent industries increasing 20% to $121 million, and aftermarket net sales increasing 21% to $39 million. Together, these markets now account for 16% of consolidated net sales, an increase from 10%of consolidated net sales in 2010.
“Achieving our $1 billion sales milestone was a significant accomplishment for the company,” said Lippert. “As we look towards future sales growth, we continue to identify the areas where investments are needed for long-term profitable growth. A key area of focus for the past year was our employees, and in 2013 we made solid progress at reducing employee turnover. This year we are increasing our efforts to improve employee retention, which should further improve operating efficiencies. In addition, we continually evaluate our production capacity and while certain capacity expansion plans may have a short-term negative impact on margins, over the long term these investments should allow us to improve our operating results, as well as our industry-leading customer service.”
Drew noted that in January 2014, as a result of the negative impact of the severe winter weather conditions during the month on industrywide production of RVs and manufactured homes, as well as on shipments of the company’s products, Drew’s consolidated net sales were approximately $82 million, a decline of 3% from January 2013.
“As a result of the road and facility closures caused by the extreme weather conditions, industry-wide production schedules for January 2014 were delayed,” said Jason Lippert. “However, retail RV shows for the first part of 2014 have been strong, with reports of higher traffic and increased sales activity, and backlogs at our customers have increased from the prior year. As a result, we are optimistic that the production delays from January 2014 will be made up over the coming months. Further, based on open orders and scheduled shipments for February 2014, our net sales for the year to date February 2014 are projected to be ahead of the comparable period of 2013.”
For the full report click here.
Lippert Components Inc. (LCI) announced that Thor Motor Coach is now using Linc Remote System technology for its Rapid Camp wireless control system on several of its Class A and Class C motorhome brands.
According to a press release, Thor Motor Coach’s Rapid Camp, powered by the Linc Remote System technology, allows users to control the patio awning, slideout rooms, exterior patio light, leveling jacks and generator from within 50 feet of the motorhome, as well as monitor the progress of each function.
“We recently launched the Rapid Camp wireless system on several brands,” said Jon Krider, Thor Motor Coach director of marketing. “It definitely simplifies using the coach for our customers. LCI’s Linc Remote System technology provides customers with easy access to their most-used features and allows them to be outside of the coach while operating jacks and slide rooms.”
He added, “For instance, if a rain storm rolled in and they were visiting a neighboring coach, they could simply retract the awning using the Rapid Camp without getting wet.”
Rapid Camp is now available on the Hurricane, Windsport, Miramar, Challenger and Outlaw Class A’s, as well as the Outlaw and -550 “Super C” Class models.
“Thor Motor Coach is the first company to use the Linc in a motorhome application, and that’s exciting because motorhome users don’t have to be standing in the center part of their motorhome to operate multiple functions anymore,” LCI Body Division Product Manager Chris Ganshorn explained. “Instead, Linc allows them to remotely control key functions from as far away as 50 feet, providing them a more convenient set up they can safely monitor from outside the motorhome.”
Lippert Components Inc. (LCI) partnered with the New England RV Dealers Association (NERVDA) to provide technician training, Dec. 10-11, at Flagg RV in Uxbridge, Mass., and Campers Inn of Merrimack, N.H.
Over two days, LCI Dealer Relations and Technical Publications Supervisor Rik Burgoyne trained 80 technicians on LCI products and systems, including Schwintek In-Wall Slideouts, LCI Through-Frame Slideouts, leveling and stabilization systems, and electronic products.
“We want every technician to understand our products as well as we do,” said Burgoyne. “This comprehensive training answers any questions technicians might have and allows us to teach consistent installation and maintenance techniques.”
“We consider this Lippert training to be a resounding success. Attendees enjoyed the sessions and appreciated having it so close to home,” NERVDA Executive Director Bob Zagami. “Well-trained technicians keep customers satisfied by diagnosing issues earlier, repairing units faster and answering operational questions thoroughly. A good service experience creates loyal customers who come back for future maintenance and product purchases.”
After the December training, LCI and NERVDA are planning another training session early in 2014. LCI also anticipates working with other dealer associations across the United States in the future to provide fundamental training to technicians in other areas.
LCI Vice President of Customer Support Services April Klein believes training sessions like these will produce a strong technician network across the United States. “Training dealer technicians is one of the most important things we can do to support our OEM customers,” she said. “We trained more than 1,400 technicians in 2013 and look forward to trying to exceed that number in 2014.”
Elkhart, Ind.-based Lippert Components Inc. (LCI) announced that it is partnering with Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. to provide customers with top-quality designer furniture for RVs.
“Ashley Furniture is one of the largest furniture manufacturers in the country. By offering this line to our customers, we are giving them a widely-recognized consumer brand that will add value to every RV they manufacture,” said Vice President of Lippert Interiors Ryan Smith in a press release.
LCI will offer a full line of Ashley sofas, sectionals, theater seating and recliners to the RV industry. The relationship between LCI and Ashley allows LCI to provide customers with extensive furniture options to choose from and allows Ashley Furniture to expand into a new market.
Smith noted the arrangement with Ashley Furniture is another example of LCI’s commitment to offering the best products to fit the customers’ needs. “We believe that offering the Ashley Furniture line, along with our other quality furniture lines, provides our customers access to the broadest furniture product line in the industry,” he said.