Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Always nice to see how things are made...

Red Bay is a tiny little town in the north-west corner of Alabama, that if you sneeze, you've missed it. I don't know it's population (they don't list it on it's sign) but I would guess that 2/3 of the town folk work for Tiffin Motorhomes, as 1200 do. We jokingly call it "Tiffin Town", and some of the locals have shared with us, that they do too! We came here for a couple of reasons, one being that this is where our RV was made, and ever since we first started looking at Tiffin's, we thought it would be fun to come and tour the manufacturing plant. The company is family owned and run, Bob Tiffin, being at the helm, makes it a practice to constantly invite all his customers to "come on down and take a tour!" After we bought ours, and had an opportunity to meet Bob, he pressed upon us, once again to "please come and see us!" So, we put it on our list of places we wanted to visit. That was the first reason.

The second reason, was for some "work" to be done. We had attended a rally in February and had the opportunity to see the new Tiffins, and Jack took a liking to the new, free-standing dining-style, vs our booth-style seating. Being as tall as he is, ours is rather uncomfortable for him. We had talked to an outfit in Florida about a redesign, but they never followed up on it, so we decided to have it done "at the source", in Red Bay. After all who better than the people who designed her in the first place, right? Additionally, we had a couple of little things that needed fixing (a couple of the blinds, tv antenna, mirror). Then, as everyone said it would, we had our first "oops". We discovered that we are a bit wider than we realized, and tried to park in a spot that had trees on both sides of it - making it about a couple of inches to skinny...just enough to put a nice scrunch on our shade awning. Luckily it didn't do any body damage and we had already talked about getting a new one, so, for an "oops" it probably was one of the least costly ones we could do.

We arrived at the Tiffin "Campground", which in fact is a very large gravel parking lot with hookups, to find out that this is their very busy season as all the "snowbirds" are heading back home and pass through here first to get what ever they need done. Luckily, they took us on anyway, as long as we didn't mind waiting a week or more for all of it to be completed. Time, we have!

While we waited, we took the tour! Wow, what a tour it was too! Two hours, and nothing held back. We walked into every area, could see and ask any question. After the tour, we could stay behind and walk around all we wanted, no security! They do the painting in a separate facility across town (remember, that's only about 3 miles!) and were told how to get there, to "just check in with security, and they will point you in the right direction". We did, and he gave us goggles and ear plugs and showed us where the door was and told us to "watch our step and enjoy." He didn't come with us, we were on our own! We wandered around, asking questions, peeking in doors, watching the process, it was fun! As "Californians" we couldn't get over the openess! We would never have allowed that for fear "of being sued!" When we were picking out our new buffet table top material, we asked the young man helping us "doesn't it slow you guys down having customers wander in and out of your service area all day, asking questions, watching, etc?" He said "yea, but that's the way Bob wants it, so, that's they way we do it here". Pretty unique, I'd say.

Everything here is made by hand, no "automation" going on here! All the way down to the chassis! Even the painting, all hand painted, they don't use decals, every design is hand taped out, then painted, layer after layer. Amazing. It gave me a new respect for the product I can say.

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

...kicking back in Alabama, Marie

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