Phannie

Phannie
Photo taken at Winchester Bay, Oregon

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Factory Tour

In Red Bay, Alabama...


One of the obligatory activities while we were growing old at Red Bay is a Tiffin factory tour.  These are conducted every weekday at 9:30 a.m., beginning in the customer center near the main gate.  


Tiffin Factory Main Gate
Leading our tour were two guides, a woman who had a real gift of gab and a somewhat younger man who took over the monologue whenever technical subjects were at hand. Both were retired teachers.  


Tour Guide

The tour was very informative and remarkable in that the group just sort of strode through the plant, mingling at several points with the workers, who seemed perfectly comfortable with a group of strangers in their workspace. 


Mingling with workers; tour guide looks on

The employees building the rigs were friendly (again, the norm here in the South) and were happy to answer questions.  Oddly enough, Tiffin will let you roam around the factory even when a tour is not being conducted and, if you are buying one of their coaches, you are welcome to observe its construction throughout the process on the assembly line.

The tour lasted about and hour and a half and covered the building of a motorhome from the bare chassis to the finished product.  There are three production lines functioning at present--two for diesels and one for gas powered rigs. Tiffin currently produces about twelve motorhomes a week and is looking to increase production. Approximately 850 employees work directly for Tiffin; about 400 more are employed in support businesses.

The factory consists of a sprawling complex on the north side of Red Bay and a paint facility in another nearby town. It gives the impression that it was built not so much from a plan but from many additions to older structures. In fact, the tour guides verified this as they pointed out the rather small area in one of the buildings that was formerly a cotton warehouse where the first Tiffin motorhome was built in 1973.  That was about 65,000 motorhomes ago.


First Tiffin Allegro motorhome built in 1973
While Tiffin is happy to show you around their facility, they certainly do not have their customer areas, the plant or the executive offices gussied up to impress anyone. The place is best described as utilitarian; no elegance is found here.  Even the video at the beginning of the tour was woefully out of date and shown on one of those gargantuan projector-type TVs that were popular about 25 years ago.

It seems incongruous that a factory so modest in appearance can turn out a motorhome with the rather striking elegance of some of the upper-end models they produce. 

The Tiffin tour was an interesting experience and a welcome diversion.  We thought about asking for a tour of Sunshine Mills, a dog food factory that was the only other major employer in Red Bay, but decided that we were not that desperate...yet.

2 comments:

  1. Don't fail to tour the paint shop in Belmont. It is totally self guided, and very impressive. Belmont is in Mississippi, about 9 miles west of the Service Center.

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  2. Interesting insight on the plant. Does make you wonder how they really operate.

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