Monday, August 8, 2011

Northwood Manufacturing

It is Monday afternoon and we have just returned from our tour of Northwood Manufacturing, makers of Arctic Fox and our Nash trailer. It was a very interesting tour and not at all what I expected. I was really surprised when they said we could take pictures during the tour. It not like I plan to build an RV any time soon.

We started at the beginning with a frame that they design and manufacturer in a plant next door to their assembly plant. Heavy duty axles and well constructed framing combine with closed and insulated holding tank areas as well as room for heater ducting. Water pipes, wiring and insulation close out the under floor compartment. Next we went to the area where they build the floor for the units. Thick marine grade plywood is applied to wooden frame that is then bolted down to the frame, a lot of bolts. There is insulation and a vapor barrier under the flooring.

Next we walk by rows of windows stacked on movable shelves. They showed us the construction of a slider as well as cut away sections of the laminated walls with installation. We then moved into the cabinet shop where the precut lumber is assembled into finish cabinets to go in trailers which haven’t even been started. The production process requires that some items be ready before the unit arrives at the station. The next stop takes us to a trailer with no walls or roof but it has a frame, floor and a bunch of cabinets installed. The shower, sink, potty and other items are installed at this location and heating, wiring and plumbing are beginning to take shape.

Final wiring is done before the unit moves to the next position in the line. The walls get installed. In the larger aluminum framed units the walls are custom cut. All the opens are cut by a CNC machine. All the trim work is done via the computer. The end walls go on before the new fiberglass nose and aft covers are installed. Lots of chalking is going into the unit as it works its way down this line. Some workers are screwing and bolting components together. At this point we dropped by the counter top manufacturing station. A lot of is routing going on here.

Next we stop by the mill shop. Here all the wood is cut to size for all of the different stations along the process. Floor frame, wall parts, as well as cabinet are cut here, marked and distributed, again for vehicles in future production. One of my favorite parts of the tour was watching a young lady putting together the frame for the wooden walls in the under 26’ trailers. While she has a jig, she was amazingly fast with the stapler as she put all the pieces together. The interior treatment is installed on the frame and the whole thing I bolted to the trailer floor. The front and rear pieces are installed as well as the roof truss’. Yep, real roof truss’ that you can actually walk on. The insulation is installed in the walls and the roof. Then the rubber roof is installed. The rubber roof extends past the top edge by a couple of inches giving maximum protection for leaks. Then the outer wall lamination is glued and stapled to the interior wall. Then enters a guy with a router to cut all the appropriate holes in the sides. He is very fast and efficient as he cuts all the holes down the side of the wall.

The wall is finish stapled to the side of the trailer and the trim is installed to hide everything. Gutters are installed, doors, lights, windows and all the other accessories called for on the production sheet. Then the unit moves to the chalking department where a fellow on scaffolding moves around the trailer chalking everything. In the meantime, inspector is looking the whole rig over for imperfections from missed chalking to any detail that appears amiss. The trailer now moves out to the Predelivery Department where additional tests are done to make certain that the trailer, camper or fifth wheeler leaves the factory with no leaks either from the inside or the outside in.

I came away very impressed until I got to the parking lot……to be continued

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