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Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.’s motorhome business appears to be on an upturn and the company is investing $6.1 million in a new painting facility to keep its diesel coach business heading in the right direction.
The 120,000-square-foot facility is in Decatur, Ind., and is attached to Fleetwood’s Plant 44 where its American Coach and Revolution diesel engine Class A motorhomes are assembled.
Some production will begin in the new paint facility in May, although it will not be ready for full production until July, said John Ables, director of marketing at Fleetwood’s RV Group.
“We are investing a lot of money because we feel (full exterior) paint has become more important,” Ables said. “We feel this new facility will give us a competitive edge in terms of accuracy and quality.”
Once the Decatur facility is at full capacity, Fleetwood will be able to produce up to 10 times more fully painted motorhomes than is the case now, he added.
The new painting facility in Northeastern Indiana will have an “assembly line flow” configuration, instead of pulling a coach off the assembly line to be painted in a stall, Ables said.
Coaches entering the Decatur facility will follow one of three separate lines during the painting process, he said. Sanding operations will be completely separate from the painting and each line will have a paint “viscosity monitor” capable of halting the line if the paint does not have the proper consistency.
Four major paint suppliers advised Fleetwood in designing the plant, and because the paint suppliers recommended against the use of infrared heat for curing, the Decatur plant will feature convection heat instead, Ables said.
Another feature is “multi-axis lifts” to maneuver painters around the coach, so they will not need to walk on or otherwise touch the motorhome during the painting process.
“Every car is painted by a robot but no RVs are painted by robots because of all the color options and graphics,” he said. “You don’t use vinyl tape any more, you use multiple applications of paints.”