Adventurer Manufacturing revolutionizes their production processes with new equipment selected from around the world. The efficiencies and capabilities of this equipment are shaping the future of Eagle Cap and Adventurer truck campers.
Imagine you’re the owner of a truck camper manufacturer in 2018. Demand for your products is at record high levels. So are your material and labor costs. These trends show no sign of letting up and are starting to stress your production team and profit margins.
To state the obvious, your job as is to increase production while improving quality and profits. If you had a magic wand you would build a new factory and hire more team members, but neither option is possible at this time. For one, you can’t find enough qualified people to hire. For two, there isn’t the land to expand your current facility, and commercial real estate prices in your area are through the roof.
So what are you going to do? In two words; new equipment.
We stopped by Adventurer Manufacturing this past August to see their all-new 2019 Adventurer 901SB 50th Anniversary Edition. Dave Frampton, General Manager for Adventurer Manufacturing also wanted to show us some significant factory changes and new equipment purchases.
As Dave explained it, the new equipment was making a major impact in production, quality, and overall efficiency. Working with the entire production and management team, he had already expanded, reorganized, and maximized the facility (including instituting 5S Lean Manufacturing company-wide) and was now aggressively launching best-of-breed technology and CNC equipment to push Adventurer’s production and quality envelope forward.
Above: Dave Frampton, General Manager, and Greg Tucknies, National Sales Manager with Adventurer’s 50th Anniversary Yeti bottles
The synergy of all of these changes is what really had Dave excited. The expansion, reorganization, 5S/Lean, and new equipment and technology was not only improving production, quality, and profits, but it was also unleashing new possibilities for truck camper design.
With our camera and notebook in hand, Dave took us through the Adventurer Manufacturing factory and presented the new equipment, explained why it was selected, and how it was making an impact. We started at the new TigerStop TigerSaw.
TigerStop was founded in 1994 by a successful manufacturing entrepreneur who became frustrated at the inefficiency he saw on his own wood processing process. Headquartered in Washington State, TigerStop was launched to automate cutting, boring, and machining lumber.
For their lumber processing needs, Adventurer Manufacturing selected TigerStop’s TigerSaw automated push feed saw station. The TigerSaw is specifically designed to increase yield and accuracy. That means more processed material from less lumber at a higher quality.
Once a cut list has been loaded from CAD into the TigerSaw, the operator brings the required lumber to the system. When the operator initiates the cut on the system’s touchscreen, the TigerSaw accurately measures and cuts the material. This all happens in a few seconds.
It was impressive to see how much lumber the TigerSaw could cut with a single pass. Dave explained that they can now process eight pieces of lumber simultaneously where they had been limited to three. That’s a 166-percent increase in efficiency.
Adventurer Manufacturing added a label printer to the TigerSaw that automatically generates labels for every processed material the system produces.
We watched as Adventurer team member, Kenny Morgan, pulled the labels from the printer and applied them to the materials as they were completed. The label printer was right where it needed to be for minimal motion. The labels include a part number, camper model, material type, material dimensions, and more – all designed to further improve internal tracking and efficiency.
Auto Pac 300
Fresh out of the TigerSaw, cut lumber and aluminum needs to be bundled and distributed to different parts of the Adventurer plant. To securely bundle the materials, a plastic strap greatly improves handling and organization.
To speed the process of strapping the materials processed by the TigerSaw and improve the tightness of the strapping, Adventurer selected the Auto Pac 300 arch strapper. Based in Exton, Pennsylvania, PAC Strapping Products manufactures the Auto Pac 300 and sells industrial strapping products to companies across the globe.
The Auto Pac 300 is a marvel to watch in operation, or at least try to watch in operation. Once Kenny placed the grouped materials on the Auto Pac 300 table, the strapping process was triggered by a foot switch. In the blink of an eye, the strapping material emerges from the circumference of the Auto Pac 300 frame and bundles the materials. I tried photographing the strapping mid-strap several times to no avail. It’s that fast.
Once bundled, the labels from the TigerSaw are applied. When these bundles are brought to the next station in the Adventurer Manufacturing facility, they’ll know exactly what they are, where they go, and what camper element they’re for.
Biesse Silco SK4
Not all lumber and wood materials entering the Adventurer Manufacturing facility are appropriate for the TigerSaw. For larger panels (sheet goods) that fall outside of the TigerSaw’s core capabilities, Adventurer has selected the Biesse Silco SK4. Founded in Italy in 1969, Biese Group are the pioneers in numeric control (CNC) wood processing.
The Biesse Silco SK4 is a cutting center with two blades and two complimentary pushing devices that move the product through programmed cutting actions. The first blade pre-cuts the materials to improve the speed and quality of the final product.
Dave explained that the SK4 produced perfectly square tolerances, accuracy within a hundred thousandths of an inch, improved stack heights, and minimized material waste. He also told us that Biesse sent a representative from Croatia (Mr. Dragon) to assemble the SK4 and train the Adventurer Manufacturing team for a week.
While Dave took us through the features of the Silco SK4, team member Omar Jimenez operated the touchscreen and brought materials to the machine. The SK4 is programmed for the number of required cuts, the grain pattern, and the moves required to rotate the material. It’s fascinating to watch in action.
When the process is completed, a label is printed and applied to the cut materials. Once again the label includes the dimensions, run, model, and part number.
Dave stated that the efficiencies possible by the Biesse Silco SK4 have helped Adventurer Manufacturing to hold their camper material costs. Even better, the SK4 will allow Adventurer to double the number units they can build.
Portacool Evaporative Cooler
Not all of Adventurer’s new equipment is high-tech. For example, Dave showed us an enormous evaporative cooling fan in the lamination building. The Portacool is designed to keep the lamination room at an optimal 20 to 25-percent moisture level for Adventurer’s signature True Composite Construction (TCC) lamination process.
Most RV lamination facilities utilize overhead moisture misters to ensure proper moisture levels for the lamination process. Dave stated that the problem with this approach is that moisture can get into the laminated parts. With the portable Portacool, Adventurer was able to locate the unit to minimize that problem.
Adventurer has also updated the unloader and roll coater (shown above) in the lamination building. Their process is designed to create a 100-percent adhesive coverage on their laminated components. The adhesive itself is calculated to the exact gram.
Manzelli TopLine Lift
After the lamination building, Dave took us back into the main production facility to show us their new way of handling laminated components.
Laminated side walls, floors, and roof are quite large for team members to pick up and handle. In the past, two, three, and even four people would lift, move, and flip these structures for routing and finishing.
Together with Jeff Gaskill, Adventurer’s Operations Manager, Dave searched for a solution for safer and more efficient handling of these large laminated products. That search led to an unusual equipment source for the RV industry; Manzelli of Italy.
Founded in 1978, Manzelli specializes in vacuum lifters for heavy and delicate loads including stone, metal, wood, glass, and sheet metal. Their TopLine lifters are often utilized in the marble and granite countertop industries and are designed to minimize the number of people needed for lifting these materials.
Jeff and Dave studied the specifications for Manzelli’s TopLine lifters and saw a solution to the laminated wall challenge. With four suction plates, the Manzelli TopLine can be safely operated and controlled by one worker. The system even allows the team member to flip laminated materials while maintaining safety and reducing potential damage.
More Changes and Additions
It had been nearly three years since we had last toured the Adventurer Manufacturing facility for our article, “Eagle Cap: Luxury on the Line”, and a lot more had changed.
Dave took us to see an underground pit they have installed for their motorhome production. The same pit has been used to allow easier and more comfortable access to truck camper holding tanks for service work.
Adventurer Manufacturing produces its own wiring harnesses in a mezzanine above the main production floor. Here Dave showed us a set of hydraulic crimpers and a zip-tie machine (shown above) that, once again, speeds up production and improves quality.
On the production line itself we saw a laser level to ensure that exterior elements, graphics, and decals are installed perfectly level and in the correct positions. See the red line across the camper? That’s a laser beam!
During our visits in 2010 and 2015, the campers were moved by team members literally pushing the units on rolling carts. Now the campers are moved by load movers allowing one person to safely move a unit down the line while other workers stay on task.
As we walked from area to area on the factory floor, we passed dozens of material racks, shelving and mobile carts organized by part size and number.
This is all part of the 5S methodology of Lean manufacturing; Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. At every turn, we could really see the result of the team’s 5S efforts. The factory was organized, clean, and open.
More To Come At Adventurer Manufacturing
As we were preparing to leave early the next morning, Dave Frampton and his team were literally digging a ditch outside the service building for their next equipment purchase; a new outdoor scale system. The new scales will speed the process of weighing truck campers, improve the accuracy of the weights, and automate the data recording. Once again, speed, accuracy, and automation.
It was incredible to see Dave, sleeves rolled up at the break of dawn, digging side-by-side with his service team. This is not a manager who leads from an ivory tower. Dave was clearly having fun. Perhaps more than anything, that sums up the big story we found at Adventurer Manufacturing; a unified team that’s moving forward, digging in, and having a blast.