September 2015
Volume 39 - Number 2


Contents


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Industry News
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Carefree RV

August 26, 2015 3194
RV/MH Hall of Fame's Walk of Fame Honors Past RVDA Chairmen

by RV/MH Hall of Fame

ELKHART, Ind. -- Earlier this month, the RV/MH Hall of Fame (Hall) unveiled the latest addition to the RV/MH Walk of Fame. The new section honors all past RVDA chairmen, the volunteer leaders of the National RV Dealers Association.

Darryl Searer, Hall president, said, "This is an exciting new addition to our Walk of Fame and the credit for this concept goes to Hall of Fame board member Mick Ferkey, owner of Greeneway RV Sales & Service, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin."

Ferkey said, "As an RVDA board member, a delegate for Wisconsin since it started, director, treasurer, and secretary of RVDA, and I got to witness first hand how much time the chairmen put in volunteering. I tried to think of a way to honor them. Being on the RV/MH Hall of Fame board of directors and the brick program seemed to fit very nicely where it would help the Hall financially, and at the same time honor these chairmen for what they do."

Ferkey ran the idea by RVDA President Phil Ingrassia, board members and a few past chairmen who all endorsed the idea.

Ferkey continued, "I had a green light. I contacted Darryl Searer at the Hall of Fame to see if we could get a special price, and he agreed so I started going after donations and got it done raising a total of $15,450."

Ferkey's fundraising not only covered the cost for the bricks for all the past chairmen, but also enough to cover purchasing bricks for the next five chairmen. When the gavel is passed to the next chairman, the new chairmen will be presented a brick in the RVDA section of the Hall's Walk of Fame.

"A lot of RVDA members participated toward the project," Ferkey said. "Every person I called donated."

Searer said, "We all appreciate Mick's success in this project and his entrepreneurial spirit. This is a real win-win-win operation where RVDA wins, the Hall wins and all the past chairmen of RVDA win."

"After his success with the RVDA brick program, Ferkey contacted Derald Bontrager, current Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) chairman, and Doug Gaeddert, immediate past chairman of RVIA, to encourage RVIA to honor their volunteer leaders with a special section in the Hall's Walk of Fame.

According to Ferkey, they were receptive to the idea, and Searer is following up with RVIA to see if an RVIA section is feasible.

Searer said, "The Hall's Walk of Fame is an excellent way for our professional organizations to honor their leaders with a lasting legacy with their own personalized brick. We sincerely hope RVIA, MHI, state associations and other associations will follow Mick's and RVDA's example and honor their leaders."

Ingrassia said, "The bricks at the RV/MH Hall of Fame are a lasting tribute to the volunteer leaders who have provided guidance and direction to RVDA over the past 45 years.

"Mick Ferkey did a wonderful job coordinating contributors to help make this happen."

Ferkey said. "I didn't do this for the credit; I just believe in my heart that people who volunteer should be recognized. That's the best compliment you can get is to have your peers recognize something you have done."

Searer said, "Mick's humility is only exceeded by his success, and he deserves our thanks and all the credit for his leadership in making the RVDA section of the Hall's Walk of Fame a reality."

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August 17, 2015 3193

Deadline for Nominations is October 31

Time Running Out for Nominations to the RV/MH Hall of Fame Class of 2016

by RV/MH Hall of Fame

ELKHART, Ind., -- With the Class of 2015 honorably inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame (Hall) earlier this month, the Hall's staff has turned its focus to nominations for the Class of 2016.

Darryl Searer, Hall president, said, "The deadline for nominations for the Class of 2016 is October 31st, so we are encouraging all those who plan to nominate a candidate to get their paperwork submitted as soon as possible."

Searer explained that all the nomination forms and instructions are available for download on the Hall's web site, www.rvmhhalloffame.org/pages/nominations.cfm.

Searer added, "The Hall welcomes nominations from all RV and manufactured housing sectors, such as manufacturers, dealers, campgrounds, housing communities, suppliers, user groups, trade media, associations.

"The nominating committee is especially interested in receiving nominations for deserving early pioneers who may have been forgotten, passed over or overlooked in the past."

According to the guidelines, anyone can nominate a person to the Hall of Fame that meets the eligibility requirements. The only people who may not be considered are those who currently serve on the Hall's Selection Committee.

To be eligible the nominee must be, or have been, an active participant in any segment of the recreation vehicle, campground or manufactured housing industries for a minimum of 25 years.

Also, the nomination form must be filled out in its entirety and must be accompanied by three supporting letters (no more, no less) that meet the Hall's guidelines for these letters. Incomplete nominations cannot be considered. If the nominee is not selected within three years, he or she remains eligible only if the nomination is resubmitted and refreshed with additional information.

When evaluating a potential nominee, the selection committee will consider the nominee's overall contributions to the good of the industry, to include both his or her positions, accomplishments and innovations on the job as well as volunteer work both inside and outside the industry, with special emphasis on volunteer work done on behalf of state and national associations and owner groups, the Hall of Fame itself and other industry-related organizations and causes.

If a completed nomination form and three properly-prepared seconding letters are received by October 31 of any year, the nominee will be in the pool of candidates considered for the following year's class and for two years beyond that if not selected that year.

The Hall's Selection Committee will announce its selections in January and those chosen will be inducted at the Hall's annual Induction dinner in August. The Hall's bylaws allow for up to 10 inductees per year.

Searer said, "The Selection Committee is made up of an equal number of members of the RV and Manufactured Housing industries, and members will only vote on nominees from their respective industries."

Once the nomination form and supporting letters have been completed, the nominations may be submitted by mail, in person at the Hall, or by fax at 574-293-3466.

Nominating Committee
RV/MH Hall of Fame
21565 Executive Parkway
Elkhart Indiana 46514
800-378-8694
574-293-2344
574-293-3466 (Fax)
e-mail: rvmhhall@aol.com
www.rvmhhalloffame.org/pages/nominations.cfm

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August 14, 2015 3192

Event Open to Public

RV/MH Hall of Fame to Sponsor Family Fest 2015

by RV/MH Hall of Fame

Kelly Miller Circus' Tigers will perform at the Family Fest

ELKHART, Ind. - Come one, come all. The circus is coming to Elkhart County. It's all part of the RV Hall of Fame's Family Fest celebration, a day of exciting entertainment and activities for the whole family. The Family Fest will be held on August 22, 2015, at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

In addition to the circus performances, visitors be will treated to a vintage RV show, car show, food and craft tents, games, face painting, bounce houses and other activities for kids, and live music by "Southern Straightaway."

Tickets for the Circus can be purchased in advance at all Martin's Super Markets in Elkhart County or online at www.KellyMillerCircus.com. The Circus tickets will allow you to enter the Family Fest at no additional charge. The event kicks off under the big tent at 2 p.m. with a performance and they will also perform a second show at 5 p.m.

Admission to the Family Fest itself is $5 for those 16 years old and over. Guests 15 and under will be admitted free. Parking is also free. Jeff White, RV/MH Hall of Fame vice president of operations, said, "For those who would like to visit the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum, the admission price will be discounted to $5 on that day."

Judy Jankowski, vice president of development said, "The Family Fest would not be possible without the support of our sponsors: Beacon Health Systems, Growing Kids Learning Centers, INOVA, Indiana Michigan Power, McGladery, The Elkhart Truth, B-100 Radio, ABC 57 News and Industrial Finishes."

White added, "The Family Fest is not only great family entertainment, it is also an educational experience where visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the history of one of Northern Indiana's major industries, the RV industry, and see many of it's earliest products, as well as classic cars and experience one of America's fading traditions - the traveling circus."

For Information, please call Jeff White or Judy Jankowski at 574-293-2344.

[ Back ]

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August 04, 2015 3191
RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inducts the Class of 2015 into RV/MH Hall of Fame

by RV Hall of Fame

The Class of 2015 includes: (back row l-r) Paul E. Hanser, HWH Corporation; Bert V. Alanko, MBA Insurance; Joe Kelly, Iowa Mfg Housing Association; (front row l-r)Jerry W. James, Franklin Homes, Inc.; Bill Thomas, Bill Thomas Camper Sales; Marlene A. Sine, Marlene Sine & Associates, Inc.; Richard A. Mendlen, Manufactured Housing: . Not Pictured: Patrica A. Fiederer, Latham Oneota Homes; Sherman Goldenberg, RV Business Magazine; Robert West, Affordable Community Living


Click Illustration for Larger Image
2015 Spirit Award honoree Don Magary accepts the award from Hall of Fame Chairman Darryl Searer

ELKHART, Ind., August 4. 2015 -- The Class of 2015 was inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame (Hall) last night in Elkhart, Indiana, in a gala ceremony before nearly 350 family members, friends, and colleagues from across the country.

The Class of 2015 includes: Bert V. Alanko, MBA Insurance; Patrica A. Fiederer, Latham Oneota Homes; Sherman Goldenberg, RV Business Magazine; Paul E. Hanser, HWH Corporation; Jerry W. James, Franklin Homes, Inc.; Joe Kelly, Iowa Mfg Housing Association; Richard A. Mendlen, Manufactured Housing: Marlene A. Sine, Marlene Sine & Associates, Inc.; Bill Thomas, and Bill Thomas Camper Sales; Robert West, Affordable Community Living.

(Editors: see more expanded bios below)

Before the induction ceremonies, Hall President Darryl Searer, said in his "Annual State of the Hall" address, "I am extremely happay to report to you that your Hall has continued to improve financially for the third straight year and is now in the best shape it has ever been. It also is my pleasure to report to you that this year the Hall of Fame has continued its upward trend of improving its overall operations."

Searer displayed a graph of the distribution of funds that show that nearly 60% of the income goes toward debt reduction with remaining committed to operations at the Hall.

Searer reported that the Hall's debt has been reduced from $5.5 million three years ago to approximately $1.5 million today. He thanked all those who have donated to make this possible. "This progress is due in part to the generous support of both RV and MH two on going debt elimination campaign kicked off the Kevin Clayton Debt Elimination Campaign for member of the MH industry and the RV Industry Debt Elimination Campaign within the next three to five years. Each campaign is committed to raising $1 million each. The MH Industry has challenged the RV Industry to match their campaign which has already received gifts and pledges for over $570,000. The RV industry's gifts and pledges nearly $100,000."

Another bright spot is that two years ago, the Hall borrowed $600,000 from the bank to pay off the commitment made to David Woodworth for the purpose of acquiring his famous antique RV collection. Searer said, "That debt now stands at $75,000 and we expect to eliminate that debt within the next few months.

"So as we move forward, the future looks extremely bright and I'm confident we'll reach our goal.

Spirit Award

Hall chairman and master of ceremonies, Darrel Searer presented the annual Hall of Fame Spirit Award to Don Magary, Hall of Fame member and publisher of RV News.

The Spirit Award is an annual award to honor the person who has demonstrated his or her desire and dedication to further the legacy of our great heritage.

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July 29, 2015 3190
ARVC Recommends Numerous Changes to National Guidelines for Campgrounds, RV Parks and Resorts

by ARVC

DENVER, -- The National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) has submitted numerous recommendations to update national standards for campgrounds, RV parks and resorts.

ARVC recommended wording changes in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1194 Standard for Recreational Vehicle Parks & Campgrounds because it is the nationally recognized standard that the association uses when it works with state and local governments involving proposed regulations.

"By taking a proactive role in developing new industry standards, ARVC can get ahead of the legal curve and provide a framework that can guide legislators and regulators moving forward," said Jeff Sims, ARVC's director of state relations and program advocacy.

"Since new regulations and laws are made by officials who often have little or no knowledge of the campground business, it behooves us to develop our own positions on a number of topics and to share these position statements with the state and federal agencies and legislative bodies."

In its submissions made earlier this month, ARVC recommended wording changes on NFPA 1194 standards involving everything from park model RVs to requirements and restrictions involving transient guests and compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

The guidelines ARVC submitted to NFPA also serve as useful guidelines for private park operators themselves.

ARVC recommended that NFPA 1194 be updated to reflect that recreational park trailers and park model RVs are vehicles with detachable transportation equipment, including the tongue assembly and hitch, axles, wheels and tires, which should remain at the campground or in onsite storage for future use, unless their removal is authorized by local authorities.

ARVC also recommended that the code by updated to note that park model RV hitches are often removed for safety reasons to avoid having anything protruding that could cause a trip or fall.

ARVC also recommended that NFPA guidelines be changed to state that guests are short term guests and cannot use their campsite as an address, a permanent residence or domicile, regardless of their length of stay. "A transient guest relationship is established because it is not lasting, enduring or permanent," ARVC stated in its proposed NFPA wording recommendations, adding, "To ensure residency is not established, a transient relationship shall not exceed nine months."

ARVC also recommended that NFPA 1194 be updated to state that "a landlord/tenant relationship is not established for transient guests."

ARVC also recommended new NFPA 1194 wording requiring parks to have written policies on campground curfews, alcohol use, tobacco use, pet policies, etc. that are provided to their guests and also posted in high traffic areas of the campground and on the campground website. The campground owner should also obtain from the guest or visitor upon registration a signed copy of the written policies acknowledging that they have agreed to abide by those policies during their stay.

ARVC also recommended changes in NFPA wording noting that campground owners may contact local enforcement and eject or remove any person from their park who is not a registered guest or visitor of the campground; remains at the park beyond an agreed-upon departure date and time; defaults in the payment of any lawfully imposed registration or visitor fee or charge; creates a disturbance that denies other guests their right to quiet enjoyment of the campground necessary for the preservation of public peace, health and safety; or violates any federal, state or local law.

Any person who remains at the campground after having been asked to leave by the campground owner for violating any of the written policies shall be guilty of trespassing, subject to possible penalties and may be summarily removed by the campground owner or a local law enforcement officer.

Regarding ADA compliance, ARVC recommended that NFPA 1194 be updated to require that specific numbers of camping units be provided with special mobility features based on the total number of campsites in the campground, RV park or resort. The minimum number of camping units with special mobility is two for parks with two to 25 campsites; three for parks with 26 to 50 campsites; four for parks with 51 to 75 campsites; five for parks with 76 to 100 campsites; seven for parks with 101 to 150 campsites; and eight for parks with 151 to 200 campsites. Parks with 201 sites or more should have at least eight camping units with special mobility features plus two percent of the total number of campsites over 200.

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July 09, 2015 3182
Campers Inn RV Celebrates Grand Opening of First Connecticut Dealership

by Campers Inn RV

Bill O’Brien, Campers Inn RV Sales Consultant, cuts the ribbon held by April DiFalco, President of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (left), and Brian Sullivan (right), Inventory Manager, Campers Inn. They are joined by members and ambassadors of the Chamber of Commerce.

UNION, Conn. — Campers Inn RV, a family-owned RV dealership headquartered in Kingston, New Hampshire, is pleased to announce it celebrated the grand opening of its new RV dealership location in Union, CT with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce on June 25, 2015. The Union location, along with Peco Campers in Tucker, GA, is one of two new Campers Inn RV dealerships celebrating their grand openings in June 2015 as the company continues its expansion throughout the eastern United States. “We are thrilled the Chamber could join us for this special event, and we look forward to being an active member of the Greater Manchester business community,” said Mike Hounshell, General Sales Manager, Campers Inn RV of Union CT. “We want to thank everyone who joined us for this celebration, and we expect this will be the start of a long lasting relationship with RV lovers throughout the region.”

Campers Inn RV conducted the ceremonial ribbon cutting outside the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce with Chamber President April DiFalco and other members and ambassadors of the Chamber. The dealership also held a grand opening celebration weekend with food and entertainment for customers from June 12 to June 15 featuring the musical stylings of the local Hollister Thompson Band and

country-rock performer Tim Charron. Attendees were treated to door prizes, free gift giveaways and fresh lunch hot off the grill. With the addition of its Union location, Campers Inn RV is building on its five decade-long legacy of serving the RV community in New England and beyond.

“Campers Inn RV was born in New England, and as we grow nationwide, we remain committed to supporting the region where we began,” said Jeff Hirsch, President of Campers Inn RV. “We are excited about forming a strong partnership with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and creating new Campers Inn RV customers for life.”

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July 07, 2015 3181

Adds State-of-the-Art Measurement to Existing Cutting Edge Manufacturing Capability

Winegard Adds New Antenna Test Facility

by Winegard Company

BURLINGTON, Iowa -- Winegard Company announced the activation of its new indoor antenna test facility featuring three specific measurement capabilities using equipment supplied by Nearfield Systems Inc (NSI). Test systems in the new facility include a planar near-field range (PNF), a spherical near-field range (SNF), and a compact antenna test range (CATR). The new test facility has capabilities that rival defense contractor antenna labs and further distinguishes Winegard from its competitors.

The CATR and SNF equipment is housed inside a newly constructed shielded anechoic chamber. The CATR includes a state of the art reflector system that provides a 6 foot diameter by 6 foot long quiet zone. All test spaces are lined with newly installed microwave absorber. Accurate measurements are possible from 400 MHz to 40 GHz.

Capabilities of the Winegard PNF range:

  • Used for directional microwave antennas up to 40 GHz and 1 meter in size
  • Produces 2D or 3D patterns
  • Can be used to isolate certain defects on an antenna surface using imaging capability
  • Fast setup and relatively easy and efficient to use

The Winegard SNF range operates similarly to the PNF range, but collects data over a spherical surface surrounding the antenna under test. Capabilities of the SNF range:

  • Measures directional and omni-directional antennas up to 40 GHz and 2 meters in size
  • Produces 2D or 3D patterns
  • Can be used to characterize any type of antenna
  • Uses MARS post-processing software to correct for residual reflections

The Winegard CATR creates true far-field antenna patterns using a custom designed reflector and feed system. Its capabilities include:

  • Evaluation of antennas up to 2 meters in size at frequencies from 2 to 40 GHz
  • Produces pattern cuts up to 360 degrees
  • Can be used to characterize any type of antenna
  • Uses direct measurement with no mathematical transformation

In-House Flexibility

Winegard s new antenna test facility enables the company to design, test and make modifications without delay. Previously, the company could test an antenna only by shipping the product to an outside lab, and then waiting for an appointment for a limited amount of range time. Now, with in-house testing, the company s engineers can look at the data, make changes to the antenna, and immediately go back to the range to take additional measurements to confirm the antenna s performance. This improvement in design efficiency also translates into much faster speed to market.

Our dramatic increase in test capability is a boon to our business partners and the end consumer, said Winegard President Jon Manley. We can help businesses find the right solution, design the appropriate antenna, and test it to maximize performance. We are responsive to partner requests for a specific type of application, and make sure our products meet the partner requirements. For the end customer, our new lab is another reason the Winegard brand means cutting edge quality.

Manley concluded: We already have an optimized manufacturing process, but now have streamlined our design process as well. The result is a reduction in design costs and faster design cycles.

About Winegard Company

Winegard Company designs and manufacturers a spectrum of world class antenna products from mass produced consumer antennas and accessories to enterprise focused broadband solutions. Since its incorporation in 1954, Winegard has designed more than 1,000 antenna models and been granted over 80 U.S. patents. The company s heritage includes recognition by NASA for contributions to the Apollo 11 mission, and the induction of founder John Winegard into the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame. Winegard s superior antenna design and manufacturing facilities that total 410,000 sq. ft. include a state of the art testing and measurement center. The company s in-house and vertically integrated capabilities support its accelerated product design and development cycle.

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June 16, 2015 3174
Winnebago Takes Top Spot in Class B Van Sales for the Year

by Winnebago Industries, Inc.


Click Illustration for Larger Image

FOREST CITY, Iowa -- Winnebago Industries, Inc. (NYSE: WGO), has surged to become the top manufacturer in Class B van retail sales for the year, according to information released by Statistical Surveys Inc. (SSI).

Through April 2015 year-to-date results released by SSI, Winnebago's Class B touring coaches are the leaders in the category with a 30.6 percent market share.

"We are extremely pleased to be the leading manufacturer in this category of recreation vehicles," said Winnebago Product Manager Russ Garfin. "Winnebago's line of Class B Touring Coaches offer versatility and style in an agile ride that is perfect for anyone from outdoor enthusiasts to weekend travelers."

Winnebago's line of Class B touring coaches features the TravatoTM and Era®.

The Travato is a recreation support vehicle, ideal for biking, kayaking and all outdoor activities. Built on the fuel-efficient and highly maneuverable Ram ProMaster® chassis, the Travato makes the most of every square inch of space with convenient storage, and features BluetoothTM connected entertainment systems that are integrated into precision-manufactured cabinetry and contemporary finishes. Available features include bike and kayak racks, an exterior sound system and a screen door.

The Travato offers two floor plans, the 59G and 59K. More information about the Travato can be found at http://winnebagoind.com/products/class-b/2016/travato/overview

The Era is the most affordable Mercedes-Benz® Sprinter van camper among the leading brands in North America. Designed for ease and practicality, the Era embodies what the avid traveler desires: impressive fuel economy, cutting edge technology like the Rand McNally RV GPS system, fully equipped galley with Corian® countertops and innovative sleeping -- all in a compact, 24-foot package.

The Era offers three floorplans, the 70A, 70C and 70X. Additional information about the Era and its floorplans can be found at www.winnebagoind.com/products/class-b/2015/era/overview

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June 09, 2015 3171
Dometic Debuts Indiana Lab for Development of Cleaning, Sanitation Products

by Dometic Group

Dan Smith

ELKHART, Ind. –– Dometic Group has debuted its new in-house chemical development and testing laboratory in LaGrange, Ind. The LaGrange team, led by veteran chemical engineer Dan Smith, is focused specifically on engineering and testing innovative cleaning and sanitation products for the recreational vehicle aftermarket.

Dometic-Elkhart-Chem-Lab-Dan-Smith-V1“The LaGrange innovation center is an exciting step forward for Dometic as it expands its focus on inventing and testing the industry’s most robust cleaning and sanitation products. The LaGrange lab is not only designing new comfort products, it is also ensuring that each and every product is highly effective and environmentally friendly,” said Smith. “While in the past, Dometic has marketed products through partnerships with other vendors, moving forward everything we release to the market will be an original Dometic formula.”

Smith has been given free rein in establishing the processes for the LaGrange innovation center, which is setting milestones in manifold ways, including creating new industry standards and competitive benchmarking. He’s also breaking ground by establishing methods and processes that use RV-specific products, materials and situations to gauge a product’s effectiveness.

“While other companies conduct generalized soil removal tests, those protocols and methods don’t test what works on, for instance, actual pet stains on carpets, or tree sap stains on RV awnings,” said Smith. “We are testing our cleaning products in the same way they will be used. For instance, if a cleaning product is going to be used on an awning, we’re testing it on an awning instead of something else.”

Dometic is placing a renewed emphasis on sanitation products, a segment which represents a significant annual expenditure among recreationists. The company understands that it is critical for RVers to have products that effectively break down effluent and help maintain function of those specialized tank systems at extreme temperatures, so real-use testing is part of that process as well, Smith said.

“We’re trying to make it as lifelike as possible with practical application and functional testing, so yes, we test on human waste here,” he stated. “It’s the only way to ensure a product will provide the consumers with the same positive results. Another priority for us is for our solutions to be effective while environmentally friendly. We are scientifically very serious about that.”

Some of the lab tests on Dometic cleaning products have been filmed and posted on the company’s web site, as part of the Expert’s Corner collection of videos that demonstrate the company’s products in action. Another video provides an introduction by Smith with a tour of the lab.

The testing and development going on in this lab make it a brand-new initiative and facility, and not just for Dometic Americas but among all the corporation’s divisions – which makes Smith a worldwide go-to guy.

“If there’s really any chemical question globally having to do with RV, as well as marine consumables, it’s directed to this lab,” he related. “We have our main projects, but we’re always getting questions, sometimes oddball stuff that nobody else has an answer for. Sometimes we know the answer and sometimes we don’t, and if we don’t, we try to find a way to test it and find out from a scientific standpoint but with a real-life perspective.”

Dometic has proven to be an ideal employer for Smith; they’ve trusted his recommendations and provide liberal flexibility, a magic combination for a scientist who’s curious by nature and enjoys conducting experiments for a living.

“Some people call it an art and a science; it really is both. You take scientific principles and hypothesize on what you think is going to work, and then test it to see if you have something,” he said, adding that he rather enjoys it when the results surprise him. “With chemicals, you never quite know what’s going to happen.”

Those surprises don’t always happen in the lab – one came in the marketplace with the new Premium Awning Cleaner. “We got a huge response from RV dealers, which I didn’t quite expect in this way. They weren’t just wanting to sell the product; they wanted to use it themselves to clean up trade-ins for resale,” Smith related. “They were having a hard time finding something that really works and this product fit that need – it was an application that we didn’t foresee.”

Smith will conduct some in-field experimentation this year during an early-summer camping trip with his wife, their three small children and the family dog – a hands-on test subject for the Pet Stain & Odor Eliminator – in the Dometic RV, a Type C motorhome decked out with Dometic appliances and systems.

He looks forward to putting ideas and observations from his great-outdoors experience into his test tubes and notebooks when he gets back into the lab afterward, saying, “If you’re going to develop a great product for the market, you have to feel, eat and breathe the market.”

Doug Curtis, Dometic VP of Marketing for the America, added: “The LaGrange lab is another key component of Dometic's ongoing focus to engineer innovative comfort solutions that meet the needs of people when they're on the move away from home. This ‘mobile living community’ can count on Dometic to provide the highest quality, most effective products to keep their environments clean and comfortable.”

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June 09, 2015 3170
Dometic Debuts Indiana Lab for Development of Cleaning, Sanitation Products

by Dometic Group

Dan Smith

ELKHART, Ind. –– Dometic Group has debuted its new in-house chemical development and testing laboratory in LaGrange, Ind. The LaGrange team, led by veteran chemical engineer Dan Smith, is focused specifically on engineering and testing innovative cleaning and sanitation products for the recreational vehicle aftermarket.

Dometic-Elkhart-Chem-Lab-Dan-Smith-V1“The LaGrange innovation center is an exciting step forward for Dometic as it expands its focus on inventing and testing the industry’s most robust cleaning and sanitation products. The LaGrange lab is not only designing new comfort products, it is also ensuring that each and every product is highly effective and environmentally friendly,” said Smith. “While in the past, Dometic has marketed products through partnerships with other vendors, moving forward everything we release to the market will be an original Dometic formula.”

Smith has been given free rein in establishing the processes for the LaGrange innovation center, which is setting milestones in manifold ways, including creating new industry standards and competitive benchmarking. He’s also breaking ground by establishing methods and processes that use RV-specific products, materials and situations to gauge a product’s effectiveness.

“While other companies conduct generalized soil removal tests, those protocols and methods don’t test what works on, for instance, actual pet stains on carpets, or tree sap stains on RV awnings,” said Smith. “We are testing our cleaning products in the same way they will be used. For instance, if a cleaning product is going to be used on an awning, we’re testing it on an awning instead of something else.”

Dometic is placing a renewed emphasis on sanitation products, a segment which represents a significant annual expenditure among recreationists. The company understands that it is critical for RVers to have products that effectively break down effluent and help maintain function of those specialized tank systems at extreme temperatures, so real-use testing is part of that process as well, Smith said.

“We’re trying to make it as lifelike as possible with practical application and functional testing, so yes, we test on human waste here,” he stated. “It’s the only way to ensure a product will provide the consumers with the same positive results. Another priority for us is for our solutions to be effective while environmentally friendly. We are scientifically very serious about that.”

Some of the lab tests on Dometic cleaning products have been filmed and posted on the company’s web site, as part of the Expert’s Corner collection of videos that demonstrate the company’s products in action. Another video provides an introduction by Smith with a tour of the lab.

The testing and development going on in this lab make it a brand-new initiative and facility, and not just for Dometic Americas but among all the corporation’s divisions – which makes Smith a worldwide go-to guy.

“If there’s really any chemical question globally having to do with RV, as well as marine consumables, it’s directed to this lab,” he related. “We have our main projects, but we’re always getting questions, sometimes oddball stuff that nobody else has an answer for. Sometimes we know the answer and sometimes we don’t, and if we don’t, we try to find a way to test it and find out from a scientific standpoint but with a real-life perspective.”

Dometic has proven to be an ideal employer for Smith; they’ve trusted his recommendations and provide liberal flexibility, a magic combination for a scientist who’s curious by nature and enjoys conducting experiments for a living.

“Some people call it an art and a science; it really is both. You take scientific principles and hypothesize on what you think is going to work, and then test it to see if you have something,” he said, adding that he rather enjoys it when the results surprise him. “With chemicals, you never quite know what’s going to happen.”

Those surprises don’t always happen in the lab – one came in the marketplace with the new Premium Awning Cleaner. “We got a huge response from RV dealers, which I didn’t quite expect in this way. They weren’t just wanting to sell the product; they wanted to use it themselves to clean up trade-ins for resale,” Smith related. “They were having a hard time finding something that really works and this product fit that need – it was an application that we didn’t foresee.”

Smith will conduct some in-field experimentation this year during an early-summer camping trip with his wife, their three small children and the family dog – a hands-on test subject for the Pet Stain & Odor Eliminator – in the Dometic RV, a Type C motorhome decked out with Dometic appliances and systems.

He looks forward to putting ideas and observations from his great-outdoors experience into his test tubes and notebooks when he gets back into the lab afterward, saying, “If you’re going to develop a great product for the market, you have to feel, eat and breathe the market.”

Doug Curtis, Dometic VP of Marketing for the America, added: “The LaGrange lab is another key component of Dometic's ongoing focus to engineer innovative comfort solutions that meet the needs of people when they're on the move away from home. This ‘mobile living community’ can count on Dometic to provide the highest quality, most effective products to keep their environments clean and comfortable.”

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