As a person that spent 38 years as a Manufacturing and Quality Manager in military industry complex I must agree with most everything said above. My thoughts are:
1) Quality begins with the design of the product
2) The manufacturing operators/ technicians are responsible to meeting the quality level of the design during the manufacturing process.
3) The quality organization is responsible to VERIFY that the product meets or exceeds the level of quality defined by the company or industry standards.
4) The company quality standards MUST be clearly defined and documented and strongly supported by all levels of management within the organization.
This is a pretty simply concept I realize, it's the implementation that's complex and takes time , training , and money. Money, that if the quality system is implemented correctly WILL be recovered through less scrap, rework, and warranty costs!
You do really have to wonder as suggested above--does it take the Japanese to start manufacturing RV's here to wakeup this industry just like it did the auto folks?
MarkieMark, it looks like they are striving to get to 1 sigma. You might be able to get in and sell, but will need to demonstrate some very short term & immediate savings. I have an ex-classmate who offers to audit & identify issues at no charge, then offers solutions for a small percent of the proven savings. Last time I saw him he was doing very well.
Being new to the RV universe I may have some degree of naivete.I would think there must be something that can be done to "point out" to the RV manufacturers that they have to improve thier QC. I for one think the idea of competition, foreign or not would be a wake up call. Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Subaru and others produce cars here and are price competitive. I would think that RV owners, members of Good Sam, FMCA and other groups could form a consumer advocacy group to bring pressure on the manufacturers to improve thier QC. Perhaps develop some sort of group which could apply a "certification of quality control" to manufactureres who achieve some pre-determined level of QC. I know that RVIA exists but apparently they are more of a shill for the manufacturers than a consumer advocacy group.
Of the four manufacturers I visited, only Winnebago had obvious process control, but I don't know whether they've subscribed to particular programs. The other three were hand-building, more craft work than a managed mass production process. One was a craft shop, the other two were hand-building on a production line, which is what seems to get the RV industry in trouble.
Production using process control methods does not always mean best quality, or even acceptable quality, but it does mean that the manufacturer is trying to balance quality with manufacturing cost. What you get depends on the success of the program, quality of management, and where they put the balance point. It should mean more value for the customer, if the manufacturer is trying to control waste and avoid excessive costs.
The best quality results I've seen the the RV industry are craft work shops hand building a limited production at high cost. This does not necessarily mean best value because the price premium might be 100% or more. If more customers wanted to pay that premium, the manufacturers would probably have difficulty expanding production without abandoning their craft work methods.
The quality control that everyone dreams about would raise the cost of the unit too much. Our opinion on this doesn't count. If it's what the manufacturer decides, that's what you get. The only choice you have is take it or leave it.
I know that good quality is available, but only if you can afford a Newell or Foretravel. I couldn't, but I wanted a big diesel pusher, so I bought a Newmar.
But, it's OK for you to wish for a foreign built RV, and to compare RV manufacturing to automobile manufacturing. Wishing is free.
Properly implemented quality management reduces product cost, whether it is a cheap product or an expensive product. At the heart of the problem in the RV industry is the problem that the customers want a cheap product, and most will buy the lowest cost product, even if there is a much better product (design, engineering, construction methods) at a moderately higher price. The buyers don't know what to look for, to tell the difference, and if you try to show them, they will often still go for the lower price.
What is different when you get to the level of Newell and Foretravel is that the buyers are not looking for the lowest price, and they are willing to pay whatever it takes to get the product they want, even if the production process is not particularly efficient.
It is not necessary to buy at the Newell level, there are some quite small RVs, particularly "egg" trailers and van conversion, that are well made. But they do seem to be quite expensive for their size, and for that reason have small sales volume. People who choose to pay less will say "they are just buying that for the name" but no, the buyers are paying for better quality, starting with a basic design that is more expensive to build than mass market RV designs.
This is not all that unique to the RV industry. These quality problems, and the effects of buyer choices, run rampant in the homebuilding industry, which is probably more closely related to building RVs than is the mass production by robots of almost identical automobiles.
To accept a low standard, and especially to pay for it, is to endorse it.
This sounds a bit clee-shay, and it gets us nothing.
What I 'endorsed', with my wallet, is not necessarily a low standard, but rather a known standard. There is such a thing as doing the necessary research, and knowingly deciding to compromise in favor of getting a certain 'look', a certain size, a certain chassis, a certain set of features, etc. Whereas, someone else might decide to spend the same amount on something smaller and with less features, but of higher quality. And, this would represent two satisfied customers.
These "quality question" threads are always confusing due to the fact that nobody of authority has published a paper that outlines the different descriptive levels of "quality".
It's almost as if people resent that some of us can not afford a "higher-quality" version of the same RV as what we bought. I don't get it.
Willie & Betty Sue
Miko & Sparky
2003 41 ft Dutch Star Diesel Pusher/Spartan
Blazer toad & Ranger bassboat