At their core, Four Wheel Campers are welded aluminum frame pop-up truck campers. Naturally that means the company utilizes a high volume of aluminum.
The aluminum shown above is ready to be fed into the aluminum cutting station on the opposite side of where this image was taken. Again, the new building allows Four Wheel Campers to hold more aluminum and keep it closer to where production needs it.
As a side note, we found recycling bins in almost every department including cardboard, aluminum, steel, and plastic recycling. Even the used pallets and wood scraps go to the local co-generation plant. Foreman Chicali Segoviano can be credited with the idea.
With the additional elbow room, Four Wheel Campers has set up the new factory for peak efficiency. For example, aluminum is pulled directly off the storage racks shown above, cut, and assembled into carefully labeled production-ready bundles. Notice the yellow tape and labeling. As you are about to see, organization is way of life at Four Wheel Campers.
To further speed the welding process, common aluminum pieces are pre-cut and kept in well organized bins for fast and accurate sourcing.
The welding shop is literally four times as big as it was in the old plant. In 2013, Four Wheel Campers added more MIG and TIG welding stations to meet increased demand.
Just to the side of the welding department, Four Wheel Campers keeps the frame jigs for every model they manufacture. For anyone who enjoys assembling a well made puzzle, inserting the pre-cut aluminum in the clearly labeled jigs would be a straight forward activity. Heck, it might even be fun, at least once.
Note that the jigs shown above are often double-sided with more than one model, or one frame assembly on each side. This allows for even more efficient storage. We also noted the frames for international trucks, including a Taiwan model, and the Europe-only Volkswagen Amarok. I want one of those!
In this photograph you see a welder who has assembled a frame in a jig and is now welding that frame together inside the jig. Once he is done welding the frame, he can lift the frame directly out of the jig. Using this method, the same jig can make thousands of truck camper frames.
One major advantage of the larger welding shop is the ability to keep the more popular jigs permanently out and ready to go. When it’s time to build a Fleet or Hawk, the jig is there, the materials are cut, and the welding team can get right to work.
Today 40% of production is for the Toyota Tacoma (Fleet model). Another 40% is for short bed full-size trucks (Hawk model). The remaining 20% runs the gamut, including specialized exports for Europe, South America, and Asia. You better believe the Fleet and Hawk jigs are out and the crew is welding aluminum camper frames every single work day, Monday through Saturday.
With the additional space, Four Wheel Campers has more stations, with more welders, who have the space to work more efficiently without the possibility of sending a hot welding spark down the next guy’s pants.
The addition of staging areas was another welcome addition afforded by the new factory. This camper frame is still in the welding shop, and has already been stuffed with closed cell insulation.
The wood shop increased in size by a factor of three and, again, the theme of more space, more stations, and more team members repeats itself. Like the welders, each cabinet team member has plenty of space to work, and room to place the materials and completed pieces they’re working on.
Even with that massive increase, there are plans to grow the wood shop further by restructuring how materials and inventory are stored. Even now, there is space around the wood shop where expansion could be realized quickly. When they’re ready, more space is on tap and ready to go.
Remember how the aluminum was carefully pre-cut, and bundled for production? Well, the same methodical approach carries over into the cabinetry shop. In the photos above you’ll see bundled and labeled piles ready for the next manufacturing step, and another bin full of pre-cut parts ready to go.