Thursday, March 23, 2023


How robots build cars, but not RVs

By Chuck Woodbury
If you have ever visited an RV manufacturing plant, you have seen an assembly line in action. But it’s a far cry from a truly automated process. On each stop of the assembly line, workers with power drills and staple guns piece together one part or section of an RV. In reality, the assembly line is merely the RV chassis being moved forward so different people can perform their individual tasks to build the “home” on top.

Considering that so many people — including those with minimal skills — touch each RV in the production process, it’s no wonder that the level of quality of the RVs they turn out is all over the place. Most of the large factories in Elkhart, Indiana, where 80 percent of all RVs are made, no longer even drug test their employees due to a severe shortage of labor. As one worker said (or is presumed to have said), “If you can fog a mirror you can get a job.”

Now, contrast that process with the fascinating scene below in a German Mercedes Benz factory, where robots perform all but the final detail work. After watching this video, watch the one below it that shows how a Jayco travel trailer is made. Keep your eyes open for any robots (hint: there are none).

The downside, of course, to the German process is a lot of workers are replaced with robots. Still, that’s the future of much of American factory production.

And now, a 12-minute video showing how a Jayco travel trailer is made. . .



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2 years ago

“including those with minimal skills” Who’s fault is that? It is OUR fault. We have not taught our youth how to work. I was taught by working and having someone show me how to do it correctly. If there is not a “how to build RVs” trade school, it is up to the RV manufacturer to train – apprenticeship. Not the worker’s fault. You don’t speed up that line until you have skilled workers on the line.The you-tube visits I have taken to RV factories show me that there is a lack of design to assist workers in becoming more efficient.There is no way to “train” a robot to just throw electrical wires across the roof of an RV the way they are currently designed. RVs would need to be totally redesigned to use robots. One cannot retrain everyone to fit into our computerized/robot world. There will always be people less fortunate than many of us when it comes to natural abilities. They need jobs too, unless the rest of us are willing to put them on the gov’t dole.

2 years ago

The Jayco video: It might seem cute to have young kids in awe of everything going on but their presence added a lot of time and distraction. Video is too long and a drag.

Bob Weinfurt
2 years ago

My motorhome is 43 years old and even to this day has had very few of the problems that a one year old unit has. Sure, now it has some issues but I’m going to keep enjoying it as long as it stays together. Back then, quality meant everything. I don’t think there’s a single staple holding anything together, just maybe to hold it in place until it was screwed together.

2 years ago

“The downside, of course, to the German process is a lot of workers are replaced with robots. Still, that’s the future of much of American factory production.”

Chuck your words.

As a business owner “I” disagree with you that this is a Downside! This is the evolution of the manufacturing process that leads to better quality products, higher worker wages, better productivity, a safer work environment and a thriving economy.

Anytime I can replace a worker with a machine “I” am ALL IN!

That machine works all day/night, does not need Obama care, no vacation, no benefits, does not lay out sick or drunk what’s not to like as a business/manufacturing owner? Yes a person or persons can lose a job by the installation of that machine HOWEVER that machine also created 4 new jobs. Somebody has to design it, build it, operate it and repair it.

Is it a business owners fault that the worker who lost a job to a machine NEVER adding skills new technology demands?

No it is not!

Rory R
3 years ago

For me the answer is simple. Cut the production schedules, so workers can take more time and care with assembly, let there be QC inspections at the end of each phase of construction, and honor the warranty. Now those simple changes will account for an increase in price, but, there will be a definite increase in quality and reduction in the many problems experienced during the break-in period. Oh forgot to mention, cut out the ‘by piece’ payment schedules and make put all construction workers on a hrly pay scale. Paying employees by the piece, also incourages rushing, speed kills quality…

Bob M
2 years ago
Reply to  Rory R

It’s not just the quality of building the RV’s, but the cheap quality parts like Dometic who don’t care because they have the market cornered. I have a 2021 Jayco and while It’s not bad you can see workmanship defects. Like sealant smeared, then painted over. The cutout for the electric outlet in the cabinet. Looks like it was cut out by a person who never used tools. Then the diverter in the shower is installed crooked. I’m not sure they follow an electric code. They brag about Amish Quality workmanship. But you can sure fool me. We need to get together and get our politicians to institute regulations to force RV manufacturers to build a safe and quality product. Too bad Consumers Report doesn’t start an RV rating and quality program.

Rory R
3 years ago

It doesn’t help that the production schedules are setup so that more RV’s can be put thru in minimal amounts of time. That too is part of the problem. Also the lack of quality control. Robots are in use in certain parts of the operation in U S auto plants, but most of the work is done by human workers with electro-mechanical assistance as the vehicles roll down the line. But there are the aforementioned Quality control inspections as each phase is completed. Something that seems to be obviously missing in Rv manufacturing plants.

Katalin Heymann
3 years ago

I watched my house get built from the concrete foundation to the finished roof. Not including the concrete drying time, it took 4 months to build the 4 bedroom house with walk out basement and landscaping. The only 2 problems we had was water leaking in from the plugs not sealed correctly on the concrete wall totally underground and the concrete crack in the basement floor. They came back and correctly sealed the holes and patched the floor. Both were attributed to the house settling. No other construction problems occurred in over 30 years. There was no prefab parts except for the roof framing. If it takes longer to build an RV
wouldn’t you wait knowing it was built with care and precision?

chris p hemstead
3 years ago

Very informative. I didn’t realize robots did THAT much of a car’s construction. Humans are good at ideas and innovation – not so much at the insanely repetitive tasks robots do.

3 years ago

It is no wonder why so many screw holes are crooked, stripped and faulty (interior and exterior). Appears speed, a lot of speed is more important than really looking at the work that is being accomplished. The are just doing their ‘singular’ task (very fast) with little or no sense of the end product. This process leads to inferior, inconsistent quality – guaranteed.

3 years ago

I am retired from the construction industry. I watched both videos and I see no problem at all with the way RV’s are constructed. Sometimes, what the industry needs is a little “human touch.” It looked like to me that toward the end of production there was plenty of “human touch” involved also.

Edward Wullschleger
3 years ago
Reply to  Gil

I mostly agree that the process works. It would be interesting to see this process as a 20 minute video to get more detail. I was especially interested in the framework and where the plumbing and wiring went. I wish I could get this kind of information for my particular trailer. Even so, it appears to be impossible, or nearly so, to fix any wiring that comes loose from internal connectors, without cutting into the interior surfaces.

3 years ago
Reply to  Gil

Gill, I’m dam glad you didn’t build my house as a retired person from the Construction biz, if you think there’s “no problem” Geez!!!!!
I’m retired from a 40 plus year rebuilding auto wrecks and restoring collector cars. If the quality of my work had been on par with the crap coming out of those hand built RV sweathouses, I’d been out of business decades ago. No quality control, no pride, nothing in the RV industry – just excuses, and crap foisted on dealers then on to the poor unsuspecting consumer. Government needs to step in and control this industry, they would nt do anything themselves. Best people stop buying this crap.

3 years ago

You get what you pay for! JAYCO: Junk And Your Camper Overview!

3 years ago

I’ve been to several RV Manufacturing Factories. And the VAST Majority of these workers DO NOT KNOW WHICH END OF SCREWDRIVER TO USE! Hence, you get a JUNK RV!

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