EXCLUSIVE: General Manager Talks New PDI Facility

A picture of the General RV inspection facility

Draper, Utah-based General RV is opening its 150,000-square-foot inspections facility with an intent to improve traditional RV industry business practices.

The dealership’s general manager, Troy Becktel, who will head the facility’s team and operations, said he was “taken aback” by recent Statistical Surveys data – which found 80 percent of Type A purchasers expect their coach to have issues after taking possession of it.

“To ensure that we have a retail-ready type RV product is a huge step,” Becktel said. “I see this as a front-end and back-end improvement.”

Only minutes from the industry’s RV/MH Hall of Fame, the company’s pre-delivery inspections (PDI) facility sits on 77 acres and will serve as a checkpoint for units to undergo quality checks and testing before making it onto a General RV lot.

“The differentiator applies to two things,” Becktel said in regard to the facility’s purpose. “We are cementing partnerships with manufacturers by engaging them with proximity, being 15 minutes to many of them. We are also having them go through our process by analytically documenting how we do it, which engages manufacturers to investigate or improve unit problems.”

Becktel joined the company last fall after spending more than 30 years with manufacturers Tiffin Motorhomes, Erwin Hymer Group and Spartan Motors. Having experience in production environments, Becktel noted the traditional PDI process is “bound to miss something.”

“In a general sense, when an RV goes from the manufacturer to said dealer, somebody – whether a salesman, service writer or mechanic – will usually do a ‘functional walk-around’ to test the systems and check things over cosmetically,” Becktel said. “If you have one person looking at [a unit], they are bound to miss something, and who knows what tools or equipment they are using. At what level did you improve the process for the customer?”

Becktel noted General RV plans to split its PDI facility into six stations that will test an average of 360 different RV aspects. The company plans to hire and train its PDI staff in specific areas, such as electrical testing or cosmetic inspections. The goal is a subject matter expert workforce, Becktel said. One station will include inclement weather processes, he added, such as washing chlorides off a unit’s undercarriage.

“If we train people do those things that they are specifically responsible for, we expect our [PDI] process to catch more things and the quality will be that much better,” he said.

Becktel said he appreciates General RV’s “purposeful” approach to the process. The PDI facility will start by serving only towable units. The building will not see motorhomes for another six to eight months.

“We want to perfect the process with towables,” Becktel said. “Frankly, motorhomes will be in a different wing of the same complex, so we can bring in that work and manage it separately.”

The goal is to develop a “repeatable” process that improves quality, he added. When the complex opens, General RV will start with one production line. Once it reaches capacity with towables, Becktel said the complex will support up to four lines.

In addition, the PDI facility will include 20 service bays where warranty work can be completed. While not geared toward customers, having designated space for warranty repairs will eliminate a “bottleneck” in the process, Becktel said.

“For example, if during the PDI process [we find] a refrigerator does not cool, a ‘swing man’ will jump in, make sure the circuit breaker is on and then make an assessment,” he said. “But it is not practical to think they can replace the fridge in a production-style environment where a unit is moving down the line every 25 minutes.”

In that scenario, Becktel said that the damaged unit will be moved from the PDI line, staged and sent to the warranty area, where experts can spend more time to replace or fix parts.

Another benefit to General RV’s new facility is increased service capacity at the dealership’s retail locations.

“Today, we use almost half of our service capacity at any of our retail stores for the purpose of PDI,” Becktel said. “When we take [the new facility] on and get our capacity to where we are supporting our stores and manufactures, it is realistic to say we can give all of our service capacity back to the end-user customer.”

Although the PDI complex’s warranty area is not for customers, moving General RV’s PDI operations will offer consumers more support and service at the company’s dealerships.

“There are so many dominos that line up through accomplishing this and executing it,” Becktel said. “From the front end of the process, to life-cycle management with customers, even though we are not touching the customer directly, we kind of are. Once we can give service capacity back to the retail stores, their experience becomes that much better.”

General RV stated it is hiring full-time positions at the Bristol, Indiana-based PDI complex.

“We are continuing to ramp up the start date based on making sure we have all the right things to accomplish this,” Becktel said. “Once we are at capacity and running all areas the complex is built to support, I approximate upwards of 150 [staff hired].”

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