By Jim Hammill
President, CEO of Erwin Hymer Group North America
The process of engineering complex items like RVs is one that is full of ups and downs. Recently we have heard online opinions on recall frequency possibly reflecting quality. If we use the example of loose parts or poor finishing, which we all experience, this is not necessarily a recall issue. It is a warranty issue. That’s quality. For sure. It happens. Not okay.
But, I thought a view from the manufacturer side might benefit people to understand why this is a good process, and why it matters to us so much.
The types of issues we have had over the years are usually unseen, supplier driven, or a design mistake. We then visit it quickly and push it to recall so our consumer and the general public do not experience a safety issue. We discuss these with the agencies involved — the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Transport Canada.
But, there are types of issues that happen that are definitely quality issues that can cause potential issues for our owners and we don’t wish to have anybody harmed. For instance, Ken, a licensed propane fitter, comes to my office and shows me a propane fitting that is wrong. His experienced eye says something is wrong.
Gathering our key people, we discover a lot of propane fittings that has been machined incorrectly. Our supplier has used a new source without telling us. It’s a quality issue for sure. But, our system is not designed to check 100 percent of the parts shipped to us. Our process measures, and audits processes, and checks the part for leaks. However, 100 percent of the systems are checked for leaks. So the system has been deemed safe by our testing.
But, the design isn’t right for longevity unless the part is right. It could come loose. If someone is fixing it, it may not seat correctly twice, it isn’t right forever. So we issue a full recall ASAP. (This was many years ago, on a couple hundred units).
Consumers affected weren’t happy for sure, particularly if they were 320 miles from a dealer. So we worked with them to get it changed by their local dealer. And in the end, it was the right thing to do, for sure.
They all aren’t as clear cut. And they all aren’t blameless. But the majority you will find are situational. And when we have them, we then put permanent corrective actions in place to make sure that type of thing doesn’t happen twice. That’s what good manufacturers do.
Complex machines, 3,500 parts. I think we all need to improve, until we are perfect. That’s the standard. In the meantime, we use common sense and integrity and stand behind our products.
It’s the right thing to do.