The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association commissioned an Economic Impact Study on the RV industry, released on June 7, 2016. The study found that the RV industry contributes about $49.7 billion in economic output or 0.28 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Through its production and distribution linkages, the industry impacts firms in 426 of the 440 sectors of the United States economy.
Nationwide, the industry is responsible for 216,170 jobs, both directly and inderectly, creating an economic impact of $37.5 billion. The full study results, along with each individual state and congressional district's economic impact is available on the website by clicking here .
Mon Dec 11, 2017
Author: Scott Hansen
At its giant 120,000 square-foot facility in Broomfield, Colorado, Carefree of Colorado manufactures about 2,000 to 2,500 awnings per day. Of those thousands of awnings manufactured every day, none is newer or more geared to increase OEM efficiency than the company's Altitude Awning.
Carefree of Colorado engineers understand the time needed for installation of awnings is time taken away from something else. Time is money, so Carefree looked at options to optimize the installation time.
Carefree’s new Altitude is designed specifically to improve the installation process for OEMs.
In previous models, OEMs would need to make sure each end of the awning was perfectly aligned and bolt down everything before moving to the other end and doing the same thing. For the 32-foot slideroom awnings, there also are bolts in the middle that need to be aligned properly. It could take several precious minutes for OEMs to install the awnings correctly. If one area was misaligned, they need to start over.
The Altitude awning replaces that process with a simple snap and bolt, doing away with the need for manually keeping the awning aligned as the system’s new design features accomplish that end.
“We knew that if we can reduce the time needed for installation on the OEM side, we both make more money,” Marketing Director Jensen Huddleston says.
The Altitude is just the latest of Carefree's awnings that are completely manufactured in its facility, from cutting and sewing the fabric to incorporating LED lights, to engineering the motor and installing the safety guards and going through testing.
At least one truck loaded with Carefree products is shipped from the Colorado headquarters to OEMs throughout the country and its Elkhart, Indiana location every day. Many days, multiple trucks are sent out. Similarly, almost every day, new trucks of inventory are brought in to start the assembly line process over again.
At its facility in Colorado, about 10 miles northwest of Denver, Carefree employs 325 people, with more potential employees lining up at the HR department in the back of the building. Currently with two shifts, Carefree will soon be expanding to a third overnight shift that will mainly be preparation work for the next day’s shifts.
Huddleston says efficiencies, the nearly constant work and the sheer amount of production have been fine-tuned as a response to the demand for Carefree’s products.
“There’s a lot of quality assurance at Carefree. Anyone on the floor has the ability to call out something if it doesn’t have the quality it needs,” Huddleston says. “We want to make sure we’re delivering a quality product. A lot of our recent work is figuring how to deliver product and help the OEMs with their own productivity on their own floors, because everyone is trying to keep up with demand in the industry.”
An additional feature on the new Altitude is the anti-billow feature, nicknamed the Billo-Stop in company lingo. The feature on the roll bar prevents the awning material from becoming loose during wind or severe weather, which before, could cause pressure against the material if it continually got pulled by the wind.
The response so far to the Altitude has been overwhelmingly positive, Huddleston says. The product has been with OEMs for about six months and Carefree already has partnerships in place on several large manufacturing lines, including Winnebago, Lance Camper and Dutchmen Manufacturing.
“We’ve got a lot of good feedback so far,” Huddleston says. “The OEMs say they love it and we’ve got nothing but good feedback from dealers.”
The Altitude is still in its infancy in the aftermarket, as the company generally tries to wait a year for its new OEM products to make their way to the aftermarket for retrofittable applications. But Huddleston says that process is gaining traction.
The Altitude can be used in a variety of RV applications, but the company still features other awnings as well, whose functionality and design are still held to the company’s standard.
Those include the Ascent awnings, normally reserved for type A luxury motorhomes, the SlideOut Kover III, which can be fit for both motorhomes and travel trailers, much like the Altitude, and the Slideout Cover, which is generally reserved for travel trailers.
There are other projects on the way as well. On its residential side, Carefree has created a solar awning for homes that is designed to automatically expand and retract as it detects the sun, weather and wind.
Huddleston says this technology is being looked at to redesign it for RVs, but this would be several months away at the earliest, as engineers would have to re-engineer it completely for an RV application.
However, the RV market is such a robust industry the company is continuing to look at its products with RV applications in mind.