Torklift International reveals their new laser cutter and explains how this new $1M machine is improving their products. Think laser beams can’t make truck camping better? Think again.
This past September we attended the annual RV Open House in Elkhart, Indiana. This industry-only event is where RV manufacturers and gear companies showcase their new model year products to RV dealers, and take orders.
We attend the Elkhart Open House to report on what’s new from the truck camper manufacturers and gear companies who present products. Along the way we try to get the inside skinny on what’s in development. My usual, “So, should we be expecting anything exciting from you guys this year?” usually gets an industry bean spilled, or two.
In the RV supplier area of the Open House, Torklift International had a display with their True Frame-Mounted tie-downs, all-aluminum Talon tie-downs, FastGun turnbuckles, SuperHitch towing products, StableLoad suspension products, and accessories. It was impressive to see Torklift’s truck camper products all on display, but there was nothing new to report.
Naturally I asked Jordan Harvell, the lone Torklift representative on duty, my usual question. “So, Jordan, should we be expecting anything interesting from Torklift International this year?”
“Yes.” he answered, and smiled. Oh man do I hate when they do that! Dropping the casual approach, I pressed. “Well?”
“There are definitely things in development for 2018,” he replied. “And we just got a new laser cutter.” Clearly Jordan was changing the subject, but the enthusiasm in his voice caused me to dig deeper.
“What’s so exciting about a laser cutter?”
From there the beans started flowing, bean by bean. Clearly the laser cutter was making a significant impact at Torklift International, and opening new doors for product innovation.
Jordan was deliberately short on details, so we arranged to talk to Jack Kay, President of Torklift International, Joel Crawford, Operations Manager, and Candice Boutilier, Senior Vice President of Marketing.
Above: A video showing the laser cutter in action
TCM: Before we talk about your new laser cutter, can you explain what a plasma cutter is and what Torklift International has used plasma cutters for?
Joel: A plasma cutter is a computer-controlled (CNC) router that cuts through steel and aluminum using air pressure with an electrical current. Torklift International has had multiple plasma cutters and upgraded our plasma cutters many times over the years. Plasma cutters are an older technology and require a lot of maintenance, but they’re reliable work horses.
Jack: Before plasma cutters, our manufacturing required tooling. Tooling design and development was very time intensive and costly. Anytime we wanted to create a new product, the tooling would take months to make. Then, if you needed to change the product design, you had to start over. The time and cost made it very challenging to innovate.
Once we had a plasma cutter, we could change our product designs in minutes. The move from manual product design to plasma product development really opened the opportunities for innovation at Torklift International.
TCM: Can you give us an example of what products the plasma cutter impacted for Torklift International?
Jack: With a plasma cutter, adapting our truck camper tie-down and SuperHitch designs to the model year changes for Ford, Ram, and Chevy could literally be done in hours versus months or even years. The plasma cutter technology also allowed for the development of a long list of new products. We are talking about an enormous leap in our ability to innovate.