Atwood Mobile Products has begun producing RV ovens and ranges, including mercury-free thermostats, but Atwood continues to believe that the RV industry needs thermostat supplier Harper-Wyman to be a viable company, said Carl Pfalzgraf, executive vice president of sales.
About 20 weeks ago, Atwood began developing a new gas system for the ranges that includes new burners, manifolds and controls, and it now is producing RV ovens and ranges that use the new system, Pfalzgraf said.
He quickly noted, however, “We (Atwood) are not replacing Harper-Wyman. They’re still a very viable company and a viable supplier. We’re still relying on Harper-Wyman.”
It will take a week or two for Atwood’s plant in Greenbrier, Tenn., to reach a desired mercury-free oven-range production rate, Pfalzgraf said.
Atwood currently is the only manufacturer of mercury-free ranges and ovens in the industry, he said.  
Harper-Wyman, which has had difficulty supplying the three RV oven-range manufacturers with an adequate number of thermostats and valves since moving its production plant from Illinois to Tennessee last year, is making progress toward resolving its output and quality control problems, Pfalzgraf said.
It might take Harper-Wyman four to six more weeks to raise its output rate to the desired level for late March or early April, which is the peak production season for the RV industry, he said.
Atwood’s production of mercury-free ranges combined with a successful problem-solving effort at Harper-Wyman’s would allow Atwood to reduce its order backlog from RV manufacturers to an acceptable level in four to five weeks, Pfalzgraf said.
Harper-Wyman is the only supplier of traditional RV oven-range thermostats to the three RV oven manufacturers: Atwood, Maytag Corp. (Magic Chef) and Suburban Manufacturing Co.
The shortage of Harper-Wyman components caused an RV oven shortage late last year and there are RV manufacturers working as few as two days a week now to avoid expanding their inventories of units that are finished except for gas ovens or ranges, he said.