Monday, October 26, 2009

2009 10 20 Alabama: Corinth Recreation Area and Tiffin Plant Tour

Note: We have gone a week without internet access so check prior posts. We have published several in one day to get caught up!!

Tuesday, Oct. 20th, we left Old Stone Fort State Park in Tennessee about 1pm and drove to the Corinth Recreation Area in the William B. Bankhead National Forest in northwest Alabama. I had chosen this campground since our friends from RV-Dreams had recently rated it as their number one campground in their 4+ years of fulltime camping. I can say without a doubt that we agree with their rating.

Didn’t get a full hookup site picture to do Corinth justice

Typical tent site at Corinth-Awesome!!

The words that come to mind for this park are pristine and precise. It is overseen by a special organization called the Cradle of Forestry.

Ken and I could have easily stayed here a week as it fits exactly our idea of the perfect locations and set up for truly enjoying the RV lifestyle.

Ditka and Sox anxious to explore Corinth

Purple Beautyberry

Once again, as we explored the area we came across interesting plant life that we couldn’t identify until we got on the internet. Don't eat these beautyberries as they apparently contain a mild hallucinogen!

View over Lake Lewis Smith from campground boat ramp

We were sorry we didn’t have time to take the Sea Eagle out for some fishing on the lake. It was so calm and peaceful there.

Ditka and Sox checking out the lake

The second reason we chose this campground is that it was not too far from Red Bay, Alabama. Ken and I had been interested in the Tiffin Motorhomes for some time now and were told that we’d have an even greater appreciation of this product if we toured the plant.
On Wednesday morning we drove the jeep over to Red Bay and easily followed the signs to the Tiffin plant.

Visitor’s Center at Tiffin Plant

They have a short movie presentation at the visitors center and then you’re off to the plant. They are extremely open here. You can talk to the factory workers and they are very happy to talk to you about what they are doing. There’s no problem taking pictures anywhere. In fact, Bob Tiffin is well-known for his open door policy. If anyone has a specific problem or concern about his product that they want to cover with him he welcomes them to come to his office and he’ll be happy to meet with them one-on-one.

Almost everyone except us on our tour already owned a Tiffin product, most staying in the Allegro Campground nearby. Without exception, all went on and on about how much they loved their units, the quality and service they received from Tiffin.

Our tour guide, Red

The tour guide uses a wireless microphone, with each of us having individual wireless headphones so we could hear him even while we ventured about the plant on our own.

Cabinetry in line for installation

My years ‘lean’ materials and shop floor planning added to my positive impression of this make-to-order environment where there was a lot of specific fixturing , and just-in-time staging of materials in sequence with the build schedule.

Counted up to 14 people working on a unit at one time

Phaetons, Allegro Buses, Allegro Reds and gas Allegros all down same assembly line. Great example of mixed model assembly-- 30 days end-to-end leadtime on a rig with current production schedule at 7 units out the door per day. Never build to stock. All units are sold to dealer before started. At high point they have done 16 units. In January they were at the lowest in a decade of 3 units per day.

A side panel being hoisted to position

We were lucky enough to talk to the workers about a brand new model of Red (front-engine diesel) going down the line. Obviously, a new design is a challenge the first time through but the positive attitude of these employees toward their product was really impressive.
We also heard that they will soon be putting a brand new 30 foot model down the assembly line. I think the idea of staying 30 foot and under for some of the older parks makes a lot of sense although I don’t think Ken would be willing to give up his diesel anytime soon.

Tiffin Service Bays

The other really impressive part of the Tiffin campus is the Service facility where there are 50 bays devoted specifically to servicing sold product.

Tiffin is well known for their interest in providing exceptional service to their owners and our fellow tour participants all confirmed that. While you can get your Tiffin serviced at the dealer, many owners love to bring their units back to Red Bay because of the top-notch attention they receive. We’ve heard some really impressive stories about the service crews adding ‘options’ for folks at little-to-no added cost to let the owner have his rig ‘his way’.

Rigs in the Tiffin Campground

Beside the service facility is the company-owned Allegro Campground with over full hookup 100 sites. These are free to owners during their warranty period and then $10 per night after. They were in to overflow parking when we were there, likely because of number of ‘snowbirds’ in flight and getting maintenance work done on way to their winter roosting location.
Tiffin owners we met there explained that they made reservations for service work, came to the campground ahead of time and then drove to their assigned bay when called. They reviewed with 3 techs all their concerns/wishes, and normally within that same day, their fixes/updates would be completed and ready for their inspection.
Ken and I both came away truly impressed with this company. After spending decades in manufacturing management, I felt a special appreciation for their transparency, efficiency, attention to quality service and perhaps most important they way the assembly floor employees seemed truly proud of their product and their company.
After the tour, Ken and I stopped at a small restaurant in Red Bay for a late lunch and then headed back to Corinth.
On the way we were stopped at the library in Double Springs to check our email. I wish now we would have taken the time then to get our blog posts up-to-date since as it turns out it was many more days before we got a good connection again.
The managers at Corinth Recreation Area were very friendly and had invited us to join them and some of the campground host couples to enjoy a catfish buffet at a nearbly restaurant Thursday evening. Meantime, however, we were finding some problems with the various parks we had as on next stop options for the weekend game. After getting some recommendations from the folks at Corinth and making some calls it appears our best bet is Cheaha Mountain. Problem is that when Ken called them he was told we probably needed to get there Thursday if we wanted to be sure we got a spot.
Too bad. We really wanted to stay at Corinth longer.
Stay tuned. Next post should cover the big game against top ranked Jacksonville State and our visit with our good friends from Atlanta, the Ellsworths.
Hugs, C

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