Truck Camper Magazine visits Rieco-Titan Products, Inc. in Frankfort, Illinois and experiences the thunderous “Cah-CHUNK!” of Bertha, the ninety-two ton press.
The Rieco-Titan Team: (in alphabetical order) Doug Bakker, Irene Carrillo, Scott Deckelman, Daniel Espinoza, John Gerhardt, Sue Habegger, John Havens, Hubie Kidwell, Deb Klir, Damen Marshall, Bob McCarthy, Sharon McCarthy, James O’Connor, Joe Pellegrino, Jan Pridgen, Mike Radzik, Gina Sakiewicz, David Spangler, Tom Watts, and John Verre.
Our society is quick to abandon the old and rush to the new. This is fueled by constant advertising that attempts to brain wash us all into believing that what’s new, is improved. Fortunately, most of us have been onto this scheme for a long time. We’ve learned that what’s labeled as old is often the proven, reliable, and safe choice. In a world with so much volatility, there’s a lot to be said for proven, reliable, and safe.
As a company, Rieco-Titan Products, Inc. has it’s proverbial feet planted firmly in the old, proven, reliable, and safe. Some of the equipment and techniques they use date back half a century. Most of Rieco-Titan’s products have been in production for many years and are refinements of products they’ve built for decades. When you build something as critical as camper jacks, you don’t rush to take chances with the “new and improved”.
On the other hand, Rieco-Titan Products, Inc. is at the bleeding edge of camper jack research and development. While we can’t talk about what they’re developing just yet, take it from us that there will be some very exciting, and very new products coming from Rieco-Titan in the future. This is a company that knows the new grass is not always greener, but is using it’s years of experience to plant seeds for the future.
In the two weeks prior to our arrival at Rieco-Titan Products, Inc., we had seen dozens of Rieco-Titan jacks coming down the production lines at Palomino RV and Travel Lite. This was our first visit to Rieco-Titan and we were eager to meet the team and learn more about how these critical components are manufactured.
LEFT: Doug Bakker is Rieco-Titan’s Tool and Product Designer. Angela spent a day with Doug learning about the different types of jacks Rieco-Titan manufactures for a future article on jack maintenance and use.
CENTER: Just off the production floor is Doug’s steel dye maintenance shop. All of the production dyes at Rieco-Titan are routinely inspected for quality control. If a dye is out of specification, Doug will either repair the dye or manufacture a new one. Doug also designs and manufactures new dyes for new Rieco-Titan products.
RIGHT: In the center of the production floor is where many of Rieco-Titan dyes are stored on green metal shelves. These steel dyes are used to cut, bend, and stamp various Rieco-Titan components and products.
LEFT: Joe Pellegrino is the forklift operator at Rieco-Titan. From the morning we arrived at Rieco-Titan to the afternoon the next day when we left, Joe was buzzing around in his forklift delivering parts to the production stations and moving product down the line. Here Joe loads roll of steel for Bertha, Rieco-Titan’s largest and most impressive press.
CENTER: Cah-CHUNK! Cah-CHUNK! Cah-CHUNK! The massive earth shaking impacts of Bertha pound like the thunderous heartbeat of Rieco-Titan. You can literally feel each impact in the floor. Bob McCarthy, President of Rieco-Titan Products, Inc., called it music. We called it impressive. Bertha is a ninety-two ton press used to shape, bend, and cut steel for many different products at Rieco-Titan. Perhaps even more impressive than her thunder is Bertha’s age. Born in the 1940’s, Bertha is now sixty years old and shows no sign of slowing down. Cah-CHUNK!
In this photograph, Mike Radzik, Rieco-Titan’s Foreman, is operating Bertha. A few minutes before this picture was taken, Mike gave us our factory tour and introduced us to the production team. If we had a question about anything on the production floor, Mike had our answer.
RIGHT: In the center photograph Bertha is pressing steel jack brackets. If you look closely, you’ll recognize the shape as the part that connects a Rieco-Titan jack to a camper. Each piece was pressed by Bertha from the steel roll in the left photograph and sent down a short chute into this container at a rate of about one every two seconds.
LEFT: This photograph shows John Gerhardt installing the bearing assembly on jacks designed for Stable-Lift in Kalispell, Montana. These jacks will be sent to Stable-Lift to become part of Stable-Lift’s two and three jack systems.
CENTER: Thomas Watts is the welder at Rieco-Titan. Here Thomas is working on a jack designed for the US Government. Rieco-Titan and its sister company, Vindee Industries, manufactures many products for companies and organizations outside of the truck camper industry.
RIGHT: Irene Carrillo is milling counter sinks on a run of Acme nuts. These Acme nuts will be used for Rieco-Titan’s four corner mechanical jacks.
LEFT: Daniel Espinoza hand assembles the inner tubes of Rieco-Titan mechanical jacks. Here he’s punching a dimple on an inner tube during production.
CENTER: In this photograph, Daniel is lubricating the screw assembly for an inner tube. At this station, Daniel runs the inner tube pieces through a sequence of drills and punches to assemble the pieces into a finished inner tube.
RIGHT: Once the first inner tube in a run is completed, Daniel performs a quality control inspection to ensure that the jack is within specification before continuing the run. Daniel repeats this quality control check every fifteen to twenty assemblies.
LEFT: The final assembly of Rieco-Titan’s mechanical jacks is performed by John Gerhardt. During our visit we watched John complete row after row of mechanical jack.
CENTER AND RIGHT: Here John is sliding the outside jack tube over the inner jack tube. The outside jack tubes have already been powder coated. After the outside tube is installed, the jack continues to go through a series of steps including the press in the right photo.
LEFT AND CENTER: Each mechanical jack gets a set of two gears. Once installed, these gears get a healthy dollop of lubricating grease to ensure smooth operation. With the gears installed and the grease applied, John tests each jack with what he calls, “the one finger test”. If John can turn the crank using only one finger, the gears and grease application passes the test.
RIGHT: Finally, the jacks are given their Rieco-Titan label. Once the labels are on, John puts the jacks in a storage bin or palette for Scott Deckelman (see the next step). These jacks are now ready for distribution.
LEFT: Scott Deckelman is responsible for packaging and shipping at Rieco-Titan. His station has large bins and palettes representing the full line of Rieco-Titan jacks. Here you see Scott assembling boxes of mechanical jacks for a shipment to Canada.
CENTER: This stack of Rieco-Titan remote electric jacks is ready for shipping to Northwood Manufacturing in La Grande, Oregon where they will be installed on Arctic Fox truck campers. Scott said that he assembles shipments of remote electric jacks for Northwood on a very regular basis.
RIGHT: Most of Rieco-Titan products are shipped to distributors. By the front loading bay, pallets of jacks are packaged and ready to go via tractor trailer to the Rieco-Titan distributor in Indiana.
This may sound funny coming from a magazine that publishes with electrons instead of paper, we really appreciated Rieco-Titan’s old school focus and new school vision. By example, Rieco-Titan shows that it’s possible to keep a company squarely rooted in the proven, reliable, and safe while charting an exciting course to the future.