September 30, 2013

9/26/13 - Heartland Big Country Factory Tour

Finally!  After living in hotels for almost two weeks, we got a call that we could pick up our house-on-wheels from the RV service center in Elkhart.  But first I wanted a tour the Heartland RV Factory, where our Big Country 5th wheel was made.  That's the reason we went to Indiana in the first place.  Having the repair work done by RV Capital Service Center in Elkhart was an afterthought--and not a good thought, after all.

Heartland gives free tours Tuesday to Thursday at 3:00 PM.  When I called for reservations, they asked which plant we wanted to tour so we could see 5th wheels like our own.  We were the only people on our tour, so it was about as personalized as you can get.  The guy who gave us the tour was in Marketing, but there was absolutely no high pressure to buy the latest, greatest model.

I expected an assembly line, like we saw in the Corvette or Harley-Davidson plants.  I also expected to see people assembling the RV's.  I was wrong on both counts.  I guess they schedule the tours after the workers go home so the visitors don't distract them.  He told us they arrive about 5 am.  (I'm sooo glad I don't have to do that kind of stuff anymore!)  We headed out through the warehouse to where they start building each trailer from the frame up.
Because they make a whole lot fewer trailers than they do cars, the factory doesn't have the robotic assembly car manufacturers have.  (I keep reminding myself:  "It's not a Corvette.  It's not a Corvette...") I don't think this thing counts.  Our tour guide told us what it is--I can't remember what he called it, but since it flips the frame upside-down so they can get to the bottom of the frame easier, I just call it a "frame flipper".
This frame has already been flipped over and back--I think.  The thing in front is a reel for the 50 amp power cord.  George really liked that idea because it's so heavy and awkward to store.
The lights don't reach well back in this corner of the building.  Good thing I have a flash!   
The white boxes are tanks for ...  The gray ones are for ???
The flooring and carpet have been installed.  This is a much nicer floor material than the linoleum we have in our kitchen.  Apparently it's a lot more durable too.  (sigh)
The bathroom will go here.  The steps up to the bedroom haven't been built yet.  I'd insist on it if it were mine.
They've started putting in some of the cabinetry already.  All that and the furniture goes in before they add the final walls.  It's up to you later to fight getting that chair you can't stand out the way-tool-little door if you need to.  
This is the kitchen area.
They're in deep discussion here about something up high.  I just take pictures.
They put the jacks on little skateboards to move the trailer from one work station to another.  I think that's clever.  
Here's a front cap ready to go on.  
Looks really funny without the decals.  
This is the other side of the one above.  The walls are on, but this side doesn't have the slides on yet.  
The slides are pre-assembled and ready to lift up and connect.
I think I got some of these out of order, but you can probably figure it out.  Or you can ask George.  Here's a mostly finished kitchen and entertainment center.
And I think this one looks like it's pretty close to done.  
There's some pretty interesting things in the 2014 models.  Some have a  bathroom across the front instead of a closet.  Some even have a powder room, although I can't imagine why you'd need a half-bath in a trailer, for Pete's sake!  I really like the new flooring and they've gone away from those stupid day/night blinds.  (You have no idea how many of them George has had to restring!)  George likes the 54" TV's that store down behind the fireplace and pop back up. 

We're not upgrading yet.  I'm still satisfied with our 2009 model.
I've got more pictures.  Click Heartland Big Country Factory Tour

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