I had so far met the Carado team and got up to speed with the latest at Bürstner. The next activity on my itinerary during my travels in Southern Germany was a visit to the Hymer Factory.
The heart of Motorhome Mecca is Bad Waldsee, the home of Erwin Hymer Group (the parent company of Bürstner, Hymer, Dethleffs, Carado, and four other motorhome and caravan brands), the headquarters of Hymer, and the home of the Erwin Hymer Museum. I had been promised a tour through the Hymer factory, the most modern RV manufacturing plan in the world, so anticipation was running high. I was not disappointed.
Once I got past the sheer scale of the facility (employing around 1000 people), I was taken by the high degree of organisation. I guess you don't build some of the most advanced recreational vehicles in the world without order. The factory is meticulously laid out with attention to every detail. Everything is where it needs to be to ensure that parts and equipment are available at each point in the continually moving manufacturing line.
Each of the Erwin Hymer Group brands has its unique construction methods giving each a point of difference. Some, like Hymer, feature durable yet lightweight construction while others compromise on weight and durability to achieve a certain price point.
While many of the processes in the initial phases of construction are automated, motorhomes are still largely hand made. Highly trained workers assemble the precision units to the customer's specification. Many components including upholstery are made on site.
Quality assurance is integral to each stage of manufacturing however it was the checks at end of the production line that surprised me. Once a week, a staff member from a non-production department spends a day checking units coming off the production line. The only brief these non-technical staff are given is "would you pay Hymer prices for this caravan or motorhome?" i.e. does it deliver on everything you expect a Hymer to be? This unscientific approach to quality really gets at the heart of brand standards.
I was in awe of the processes that the Erwin Hymer Group have put in place. It is no wonder German manufacturers have come to be global leaders in the automotive industry.