What a treat was in store for our group of travel writers. Following a gourmet picnic lunch at the Pilot Knob State Park in Forest City, Iowa, instead of hopping back into the van that had been our transportation the entire trip, we were greeted with two huge Winnebago motor homes. After oohing and aahing at the $224,000+ homes on wheels, we buckled ourselves into seats. Some sat on a sofa; I sat at the dining table. Our destination: Winnebago Industries in Forest City, Iowa, where we took the Winnebago factory tour.
In the Winnebago Visitors Center we browsed through motor homes on display. I dreamed of trading my house for one of them and traveling non-stop.
A Winnebago bus took us to the start of our tour, which began in the soft goods area. Winnebago gets their fabric from eight to ten mills on the east coast. Because they use the just-in-time inventory style, they have only three large tables full of fabric instead of having to store volumes of it in a warehouse.
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An employee rides alongside the Gerber automated cutter as it moves down the line. The Gerber cutter is capable of cutting through 40 layers, although they usually cut only four or five layers at once.
Up to 18 staff members per shift sew cushions and other soft goods.
We saw Winnebago’s secret to getting the foam inside the cushion fabric. They first shrink the foam, similar to the way a space bag works.
They insert the form into the fabric …
… and voila!
Moving on to harder materials, the Flow Waterjet cutting machine uses 55,000 pounds of water pressure to cut precise pieces. In nine hours it uses only three gallons of water
We boarded the bus again and rode to some of the Winnebago factory assembly lines. Winnebago, around since 1958, was the first RV manufacturer to use an assembly line process. We watched part of the line from a catwalk, including veneer being cut to size.
We also saw the Winnebago motor homes rolling in to have appliances and soft goods installed, the last step of the manufacturing process.
There is much more to the Winnebago plant, which covers 200 acres, 60 acres under roof. The warehouse alone is 10 acres with 16 loading docks where they unload 200 semis per week. They manufacturer many of their own components rather than purchase them from a third party in order to ensure quality and availability.
Our tour was cut short because of our group’s time constraints, but with the ground we covered, we came away with a good idea of the detailed processes entailed in building a Winnebago motor home. Unfortunately, what I didn’t come away with was a motor home of my own.
If you take the Winnebago factory tour
The Winnebago factory, located at 605 W Crystal Lake Road in Forest City, Iowa, offers tours twice a day Monday through Friday from April through October and once a day for part of November. Check the web site for tour times and directions to the visitors center.
Note: Because this is a working factory, no open toed shoes are allowed on the tour.
We stayed at the Historic Park Inn Hotel, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, in nearby Mason City during our visit to the area. Check rates here
Disclosures: My visit to Winnebago Industries was hosted by the Iowa Tourism Office, but any opinions expressed in this post are my own.
This article contains an affiliate link. If you book a room through the “Check rates here” link above, I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you.
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