Newmar Corp. held its 2011 Vendor Appreciation Dinner Thursday night (Oct. 18) at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury, Ind., in an unusual family-style dinner at which the Nappanee, Ind.-based motorhome builder took the time to recognize vendors from throughout the country who excel at the fine points of servicing Newmar as an original equipment manufacturer.
It’s something that Newmar, a family-held company, has done for 18 years — with the exception of a couple of years during the recession – hosting a dinner for the top-rated suppliers and presenting awards to a number of them.
“We do a bi-annual evaluation of about 150 vendors,” explains Mike O’Connell, vice president of purchasing for Newmar. “Through that process, we end up with scores, everything from ‘excellent’ to ‘unacceptable,’ and the people that we invite to this Vendor Appreciation dinner received excellent scores.”
Of the 44 suppliers and 140 diners in attendance at this year’s dinner, the top award, the “Virgil Miller Award of Excellence,” went to Industrial Finishes, an Elkhart, Ind.-based exterior paint supplier. On hand to accept the award were President Glenn Duckworth, Eastern Region RV Manager Rich Dotson and Mike Pratt, who’s in charge of business development.
Also honored were Almega Tru-Flex Inc. (Wire Harnesses), Alro Steel Corp. (Structural Steel), Fantastic Vent division of Atwood Mobile Products (Ceiling Vents), Fabritech (Bed Spreads), Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (Chassis), Quality Hardwood Sales (Hardwood Stiles), S & H Metal Products (Galvanized Metal Boxes), Equipment Service/Stressco (Slideout Components), Postle Aluminum Co. (Aluminum Extrusions) and Winegard Co. (Satellite Dishes & Antennas).
Additional awards bestowed at the event included Salesman of the Year: Jim Cramer, Global Link; Inside Sales: Amanda Girten, Positron Corp. and Judy Hafel, Flexsteel Industries Inc.; Truck Driver of the Year: Ross Minanik, YRC, and the Innovation Award, which went to Equipment Service/Stressco.
In looking down the road in his dinner remarks, Newmar President Matt Miller said Newmar has put in place a succession plan that will keep the company in the family of his father, founder Mahlon Miller, for the next generation. And he said the company has been making headway as well in terms of product innovation, despite the limitations of the recent recession.
“We believe the future of our company is very bright,” said Miller. “We have taken the opportunity during the downturn to prepare ourselves for a lot of innovation, which we’ll be introducing in the next 12 to 18 months, and we’re not slowing down on that at all.”
“We have fewer dealers than we did before the downturn, but we have higher quality dealers, and we have initiatives underway to recruit more dealerships. We have fewer brands than we’ve had, but we’re more focused on the brands that we do have. And we feel good about where we’re at right now.”
If Newmar was coming out of “survival” mode at last year’s supplier dinner, added John Sammut, vice president of sales, the company this year “is getting back on the offensive in its approach to selling and marketing its products throughout the U.S. and Canada.”
In fact, Sammut said the last five weeks beginning with the week before the Elkhart’s 5th Annual RV Open House Week through mid-October were “the best five weeks of order writing at Newmar in four years.” For this and other strategic reasons, Sammut said, Newmar is accelerating production schedules to four units a day for the balance of 2012 and for some time into 2013.