With all the things we do these days and all the people you need to deal with for this or that on your motor coach or RV, it is great when you come across a company that seems to just care. In this case, it is Carefree of Colorado.
Unfortunately for us, but good for you, we had to visit them at their manufacturing plant in Broomfield, CO. I say it that way as we needed to come in for an issue we where having with our very large Paramount Awnings. It was our 21 foot one that had developed an issue closing on one end. However the good news is we were given a tour of the plant once we explained about our travel blog and our readers.
Now please be aware, they are not really a service center, however based on our unique issues, they wanted to see it happening and look to resolve it. Great for them to say the least for then they can learn from issues with a product being out on the road and in the real world experience. They also do not normally give tours, but opened up their plant to us which is why we can bring this to you. So thanks Carefree on both parts.
Carefree is a world wide company with dealers and warehousing in the North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Yet made right here in the USA! They work with RV and Coach manufacturers from some of the largest to some of the smallest, “covering” not only your seating area, but also your windows, slides and the ground as well. (Ok, they also do many other things as well including residential.) The main plant is located in Broomfield, CO and covers a great deal of space, but as we have seen, is very efficient right down to how things are marked off on the ground where items are places as they move throughout the factory.
Their flagship RV product is the Paramount Awning and is usually found on higher-end coaches. The good news is that a similar product, based on the technology developed for the Paramount can now be found in a lower priced product for the smaller coaches, class C, and even towables.
The Apex and the Latitude are the names. Where the Paramount is capable of dropping down, these other units are vertical yet they have no drop rails or arms to get in your way. It is a clean look. It is great to have a system that just comes right out from the side of the RV and there is nothing in the way. The achieved look is very clean and elegant.
As we moved around the plant it was amazing to see the large sewing tables where fabric is stitched together. They are moved around on air tables, think air hockey, where the panels just float on to the next part of the process. These table are very, very large to say the least as you can clearly see. After all, they have to be able to produce some very large awnings.
It is interesting to note that all the stitching is done by hand and is something we really did not expect to see. It is amazing how they can keep the stitching so precise for any slight change in speed or movement can change the stitch gaping and thus make for issues. The ladies we met were pros to say the least. Each of them just zipping along like it was no big deal. Yet when you look at the stitching, you would think it surely had to be done via machine and not by hand.
So I tried it. Lets just say it did not end well. And no, it was not on a production piece, but a sample. So no worries on getting a D&B Original. :)
A new machine they recently put into the works is called a Automatrix Table. This very large table is kind of like a CNC machine for fabrics. While a CNC machine does 3D type work, this is for making precise cuts of patterns down to the smallest of gaps using a very sharp, what looked to be, a razor wheel. But it does much more. It allows for complete awning fabric solutions to be designed and cut at one time, and by that I mean ALL THE PANELS that may be needed for an awning.
The cool part is, it will auto align all the stripes with no operator intervention. This means one person can cut an entire awing. At this time, Carefree has one Automatrix machine and they hope to add three more for increased production demands. Here is a video shows it in action…
One of the products that they make, which I really would love to have on our coach, is a slide topper of all things, called the Ascent (with Slat). Why? Simple…we hate the water pooling on the top of the slide that we get on our coach. Now I have to think some, hummm…most, of you know what we mean.
The Ascent is a different approach to slide toppers. It mounts to the side of the coach with a hard piece called a Slat that folds in and down when the slide comes in making so it is tight and no fabric is exposed when driving or stored. But the best part is that same piece comes out and away from the coach making for a pitch that is needed to shed water. When we build our next coach, we are going to be requesting to see if we can use Ascent awnings, even if they want to use them as a test, we are willing to take the chance.
As we moved on in our tour we were taken into the engineering development center to be shown a new product that is soon to be release. They were ok with us seeing this simple, but kind of great concept, as they had already patented it. It’s called Flex Guard. It is a material that “flexes” into a protective case to cover and protect the awning when closed. Now I know what you are thinking, they already have that. Yes they do, however it is made out of aluminum and is not only costly to manufacture and thus increased consumer cost, but also it can get easily scraped or even bent needing to be replaced.
This Flex Guard replaces that aluminum cover and makes for a very tight protective cover when the awing is in and can be sewn/bonded into the fabric that is making up the awning. I can only think based on the lower cost of production, and thus cost to the RV manufacturer, you should for sure, start seeing these on RV’s in the near future and become more and more the “norm”.
All in all it was a great day we spent with Carefree. From the customer service staff, to the the engineering department and even had the pleasure of meeting the president of the company. And yes, they were able to address the issue with our 21 foot Paramount awning and at the same time, was able to improve on the product design for future productions as well as come up with a fix for anyone else that MAY come across an issue with the awning closing as it should.
So to all at Carefree, we know that the name “Carefree” is to represent the low level of care needed to take care of your products, but we now want to think of you as the “caring” company where we will be “Carefree” about owning your product. So thank you for caring enough to have us to your plant.
Here are all the photos we took on our tour. (Click Show PicLens for best view.)