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Richard Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and a catalyst for the industrywide push into quality issues, expects five task forces under the direction of the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence (COE) to have concrete recommendations to improve quality by early summer.
“We don’t want it to drag along too long,” said Coon, who comments came after somewhat of a lull in public statements regarding a quality initiative engineered by Coon and the coalition committee. “There will be a document that will be talking about the visions and objectives that we hope the industry would try to adopt or put into their business strategies.
“You have to approach this very cautiously. There’s no way to force people to do things.”
As an outgrowth of that quality initiative, COE Co-Chairman Jim Sheldon, special assistant to the chairman of Monaco Coach Corp., Coburg, Ore., and John Thompson, president of John Thompson Associates, Nicasio, Calif., chairman of the product quality task force, in November were among some 85 people attending an RVIA-sponsored seminar at the Century Center in South Bend, Ind., that focused on developing processes and systems to measure product quality.
“This is part and parcel with what we are trying to do, and I’m encouraged by the number of companies and people participating,” said Sheldon, whose company sent nine people to the seminar. “It all comes down to the same message: over one-third of the people who buy our product don’t come back and buy the product again.”
Thompson is optimistic that the industry will embrace the COE’s suggestions on increasing quality. “Our job is to create a resource that the industry can draw on to move to a new quality level,” Thompson said.
Quality is a “top down” issue, said Bruce Hopkins, RVIA vice president of standards and education, whose department organized the South Bend seminar. “If the top people don’t believe in quality and if they don’t make a conscious effort to instill the thought all the way through the company, you are not going to get anywhere,” Hopkins said.
He added that there is a very pragmatic reason for RV manufacturers, suppliers and dealers to increase quality at every level.
“The message being stressed here today is that if you treat quality correctly, it will improve your bottom line,” Hopkins said. “That is what is going to drive quality. When people understand that they can make more money by putting an emphasis on quality, that will change the thinking.”
Seminar presenter Ted J. Schorn, general manager for corporate quality at Enkei America Inc., Columbus, Ind., a manufacturer of wheels for the automotive and RV industries, cited RV industry consumer surveys that show that more than 20% of new RV owners are not satisfied with some aspect of buying and owning an RV.
“The metrics are frankly scary. They should be an alarm call,” Schorn said. “The fundamental aspect that I am trying to get across is that customer satisfaction in the RV industry is not as it should be and that there are ways to directly address customer satisfaction in the design and development of products, and the process control of those products.
“There have been a lot of strides made, and one seminar can’t do everything. But we are trying to open (the RV industry’s) eyes to the scope of things.”
Bill Fenech, president and COO of Damon Motor Coach, said that he and three members of his management team didn’t necessarily learn anything dramatically new at the seminar. “It’s not necessarily the specific, actionable items that we are getting,” he said. “It’s reinforcement for a lot of things that we already know, but my team is hearing the same message that I’ve been preaching.”
Equally satisfied with the seminar was Neil Ford, president of NuWa Industries Inc., Chanute, Kan., whos was looking to the seminar to provide him with guidelines on improving product quality across the board. “It’s like a refresher course of things that you know you should be doing, but don’t do,” Ford said.
Jerome Hoover, a Monaco compliance engineer, said that Quality starts at the time that products are developed,” maintained Jerome Hoover, a Monaco compliance engineer. “Everybody has to look at their own jobs and understand whether they are doing the best at what they are doing,” Hoover said.
Andy Collins, a quality engineer with Spartan Chassis Inc., Charlotte, Mich., said that product and service quality is getting better but that customer expectations about what quality constitutes also are increasing.
“I came from the automotive industry,” said Collins, nine-month Spartan employee. “There is a big difference between the two, but the expectations are ever growing and the RV industry is getting closer to the automotive quality all the time.”
Of particular interest during the seminar, Collins said, was encouragement that changes that lead to quality can be accomplished by those in the all levels of the workforce. “It’s easier if top management has the buy-in first, but if you can show management that quality will convert to dollars, you can send it up the line,” Collins said.