While getting the suspension upgraded at Mor/Ryde, we were given a tour of all three Elkhart plants by Gary Wheeler. We met Gary last year at the Good Sam's Rally in Florida. While we were waiting for our suspension upgrade, he offered us a tour of the Mor/Ryde facilities.
The first part of this blog will deal with the stuff Mor/Ryde makes - they are very ambitious in the variety of products they fabricate. Most of these are completely manufactured right here in Elkhart. The next part of this blog will be the cool stuff regarding manufacturing in general. Gary allowed us to ask may questions we had been unable to ask on other tours.
Our tour began in the suspension assembly area. Here Gary is holding 1/2 of a rubber spring. Those are metal plates on either side and the rubber is embedded on to the plates for a permanent adhesion.
Two of these springs create the unique suspension system which Mor/Ryde makes.
Here you can see the springs mounted on the wheel hub end. We think these hubs were getting assembled for installation on our RV. There were two RV's getting the Mor/Ryde IS system installed, ours was one of them.
Next to the hub assembly section were a variety of Pin Boxes. (My picture didn't turn out, so we borrowed this from Mor/Ryde's website.) This pin box has a rubber spring mounted horizontally to prevent chucking or jerking as the truck starts and stops. It reduces the jar of starting and and stopping and poor road conditions (pot holes, RR tracks...) We purchased one of these as we think it will complement our air hitch and help lengthen the life of our trailer. Since our trailer is older and the old pin box was non-standard, they had to special order the hole specs, so it will be installed later this week.
Other things Mor/Ryde makes are sliding trays. These go in the basement compartments of RVs. They have a high weight capacity so you can load boxes and stuff on them, then pull them out the door on the tray rather than unloading the entire basement just to get to that box in the middle. They come in various sizes and Mor/Ryde can make just about any configuration that is needed. If our trailer basement was configured differently, we would love to have these for our propane bottles and batteries.
The newest slide was created for pickup truck beds. It is called the Slidezilla. It is designed to fit over the wheel wells in the bed and allows for quite a bit of extra storage underneath. This is not necessarily an RV product. We found out on our tour that Mor/Ryde reaches into multiple markets.
They also make TV mounts. These are flat panel mounts that allow you to lock your TV to a stationary position while traveling and pull it out to various positions for viewing while parked. We ordered two of these: one for the living room and one for the bedroom. We will get them later this week also. Currently we have to follow a strict procedure each time we move the trailer to secure these TV so that they don't fall during transit. It will be so nice to just push it back and lock it in the future. They will also give us better access to the storage space in the cabinets behind the TVs.
Our 50 AMP RV electrical cord is quite heavy. A thirty foot cord weighs about 25 pounds. That is manageable until you get into cold temperatures when the cord stiffens and is difficult to manipulate. That makes these cord reels really appealing. Again, our basement is limited in what it can handle or we would have purchased one of these in a heartbeat! For now, Trey will just have to use this as an opportunity to develop patience and upper arm strength!
We had no idea that Mor/Ryde did so much with chassis. The frame extension area of one of the plants takes up about 1/2 of the floor space in that facility. (more on this process in the next section) Often times RV's need longer chassis than what comes on a particular unit. Here they remove the drive shaft, cut the frame rails, weld an extension frame in place, lengthen and re install the drive shaft. This all takes place in a very short amount of time - like less than an hour. (Sigh, sometimes Swiss cheese memory is frustrating!)
They also upfit chassis. Upfitting means they provide the structure the RV is built upon. Here is an upfitted chassis ready for delivery to the manufacturer. Below it is a picture of the installed landing gear on one chassis. Ever since our first month on the road, we have been very aware of how thoroughly things are put together. This component attachment seemed quite adequate compared to what we encountered when JW pulled our truck bed off.
They even have the capability to create their own fifth wheel pins! The item on the left is the pin created on a metal lathe. In the same department, they were creating marine products. The item on the right was either a line guide (ropes are called lines on ships) or a part of a wench. It was also made on the lathe. Interesting note here. During our tour there were just two guys working in the metal lathe area. As we viewed their work and asked a question, they brought out more pieces they had made and were very enthusiastic about what they were creating. You could tell they took pride in their work and it gave us great peace of mind that the employees here took such great care in the things they made. Frankly, the jobs we saw on our tour were quite fascinating and it was easy to see how one could get quite a bit of satisfaction watching raw materials turn in to a finalized product under one's watchful care. I'm sure not every employee had the same enthusiasm as the few we spoke with, but we did cover almost all areas of the plants and those who worked there seemed to enjoy what they did.
There are many other products Mor/Ryde makes. We were amazed by the variety. These photos cover just a few of those.
As we have stated in previous RV Manufacturing tour posts, we went too quickly to see all we wanted to see and there surely wasn't time for questions. This tour was different. On most of the tour, we were the only two there, so we were able to keep a slower pace. Also, we were able to ask all kinds of questions. (You know that made Susan happy!) While we didn't document everything we saw - there was just too much fascinating stuff to see! - we did get a few pics and videos of some cool manufacturing stuff! These are not in any particular order, mostly in the order that we saw it.
Many of Mor/Ryde's products begin as sheet metal in the factory. We were able to document much of this process from start to finish.
The sheet metal is stored is various sizes awaiting use. Once an item is set for manufacture, the metal is put on a pallet. A hoist then lifts the metal, one sheet at a time, onto a table to prepare it for the laser cutter.
Engineers create patterns where there is a little waste metal as possible, sometimes putting more than one job on a piece of metal. This whole process reminded Susan of patterns and dressmaking, just with larger and more expensive tools! (laying out patterns (computer/paper), cutting (laser/scissors), joining (welding/sewing), finishing (coating/ironing))
The sheet is moved onto the cutter area and cut. (sorry for the poor video quality - it was great in person!)
It then moves back out on the table where the component pieces are removed and...
... the scrap is sent to recycling.
Even very thick metals can be cut in this manner.
Some metal pieces need bending and forming. These flat, cut pieces are sent to the bending machines (press brakes). This was probably Susan's favorite part of the tour. It was like simple origami with metal.
Here you can see a flat piece of metal formed into something more tubular in shape.
There were also multiple stations were welding took place. Some of it was robotic welding, and some was done by hand. Once any extra parts were welded, the finished pieces were sent to the powder coating area. The pieces were sent through a seven stage acid bath and prepared for the powder coat finish. The track system for this was long and traveled through various areas since there was a lot of drying time required.
While metal is a mojor player in the plants, Mor/Ryde works with materials other than metal. In the area where they make doors, foam insulation needs to be cut to fit. Here they take a foam board and project a pattern onto it. You can see the lines as Gary holds up the foam. Then they take heated knives and cut along the lines from the projector.
When Metal comes in tubing (square or round) there is a special laser machine that can make cuts or add holes wherever needed. These are simple holes drilled in square tubing.
Sometimes more specialized cuts are needed. It really is a cool machine!
On this piece, the outer bend is scored to create a nice soft edge.
Above we wrote about Mor/Ryde extending the frames of RVs. We were able to document how some of they did that. Since heat can change the integrity of metals and a high amount of heat is needed to cut into a truck frame, Mor/Ryde uses a specialized cutter. It nibbles small chunks off the frame until the entire side is separated.
Here is the frame once it is cut.
Here are the little bits of frame the cutter removed. It takes off about a quarter inch of metal using this process.
Bonus: we were able to see how bubble wrap was made because they had their own bubble wrap machine. The entire system was very small and pushed up against a wall and surrounded by half-assembled boxes. It was not given the dignity it deserved. Sorry about the poor quality of the video. As already stated, there was just too much to watch with eyes. The camera was an afterthought. The bubble wrap began as a simple roll of two-ply plastic. It ran through the heart of the machine where air was trapped inside when the sides were laminated together and it came out the other side onto a roll of bubble wrap. Simple and elegant!
The other cool thing in shipping was the plastic wrap machine. We've only ever done this with the hand-held rolls. This process was cumbersom and very labor intensive. This machine made easy work of getting pallets ready!
Machines are really cool and the entire manufacturing process was amazing. Funny how we thought we had asked every conceivable question during the tour only to find out how many we didn't ask when more came up as we looked through the pictures. If you ever get an opportunity to tour a facility where things are made, assembled, or put together, do it. It will give you a greater appreciation for the creative capacity and sense of order given to man.
It is just a small glimpse of His image in us!
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You. Psalm 139:13–18, NKJV