A key component of The Newmar Difference comes from our unwavering commitment to quality in everything that we do, from building world-class motor coaches to providing industry-leading customer service.
Still, achieving and maintaining such high standards is easier said than done, and requires an aggressive approach when it comes to quality control. To learn more, we spoke with Kevin Bogan, who has spent the past 13 years with Newmar and is currently Vice President of Manufacturing, and Dennis Ramer, Quality Manager and Newmar employee for the past 43 years.
How does Newmar maintain a superior level of quality throughout the manufacturing process?
Every coach we build is accompanied by a document known internally as a QC Checklist that travels with each unit from start to finish. Every department on our production line has quality checks that they must execute, which are then verified by an inspector. The QC Checklist is used to ensure certain standards are met, such as a specific torque value.
The Newmar Quality Control Department utilizes several inspectors that move around or are assigned to different sections of our assembly line. Each is in charge of auditing specific features or functions, which requires them to be up to speed on things like product changes and engineering and design modifications.
These inspectors also help to certify employees who perform critical quality checks and inspections. There are at least 14 RVIA code-related critical inspections that are done by production assemblers that require certification from a Quality Control Inspector. These assemblers have to be certified annually so that we know they have been extensively trained and have demonstrated the proper way to perform a specific test or check.
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What are some examples of actual tests your department performs?
We have several different checkpoints throughout the assembly process. After a coach is completed, it then moves to what we call CQI, an acronym for Customer Quality Inspection. The CQI takes place in a separate building on our campus that is away from the production environment and is equipped with the proper tools and lighting for a good, thorough inspection to take place.
When we implemented the CQI process, we doubled the amount of time spent performing a final inspection on each coach. We carefully examine each units functionally and aesthetics to make sure that we are prepared to deliver a coach that is 100% ready to make the customer happy. The CQI process also involves extensive testing of appliances and water systems. We run the washing machine, we run the dishwasher, we run the microwave, and we even have the refrigerator make ice.
Some other examples of quality testing performed at Newmar:
These are all examples of the kind of intricate testing we believe is necessary to maintain the Newmar difference.
What is the biggest challenge when it comes to maintaining a high level of quality?
At the end of the day, our coaches have automotive functions, which by themselves require a lot of testing, but then there are the challenges associated with building sophisticated homes on wheels, which are packed with leading-edge technology. With a complex assembly line building the kind of products that we build, our job is never-ending.
One thing we work very hard to maintain is consistent communication with our service and warranty group, so that we are made aware of any issues or feedback that comes from our dealers and customers. Every time we run into an issue, our question is always, “How did that happen, and what do we have to do to make sure it never happens again?” You can never be comfortable with where you are. You have to learn and get better every day.
In your own words, why is the quality assurance process so important to Newmar?
We at Newmar have made the decision that we want to perform the best possible inspection we can so that we don’t have a dealer or a customer taking delivery of a coach and noticing a problem we failed to catch. We’ve put a lot into the implementation of our CQI process and have found that it leads to outstanding initial quality while reducing warranty claims.
When we developed the Customer Quality Inspection, we decided to give it that name because we wanted the process to reflect our overall goal of making every unit ready for the customer to walk right into and begin enjoying right away. No issues. No problems.
If you look at the Newmar company mission statement, it says that we want to be the best in product and service leadership. That means we not only want to build product, we want to build quality, reliable product. And if there is a problem, you have to resolve it quickly while providing superior service. It really ties into what Newmar President Matt Miller says about not wanting to be the biggest, but the best.
What would you say to someone who might question the extent of the quality control process and the added expense it presents Newmar?
As we get feedback from the field, we are constantly changing processes and adding more inspections, not less. Because if our goal is to have the best, most reliable product on the market, we have to determine the root cause of any defects and take the appropriate corrective actions to help ensure a problem that has been discovered doesn’t present itself again. That requires more inspection time, not less.
We can’t inspect quality into our coaches, but with the intricacy and complexity of our products, you have to look at quality control more as an investment than a cost. Because the goal is to have more satisfied customers and less warranty claims.