Elkhart Co. RV supplier plans to add 100 robots

The number one component supplier to the RV industry plans to add at least 100 additional robots to its factory floors over the next five years.

“More and more people are using automated machinery as well as robotics to be able to get their work done,” Lippert Components Inc.President Scott Mereness told NewsCenter 16. “Just like everyone else we're struggling with the labor market.”

Earlier this year, Lippert added a fiber laser cutter on a factory floor in Goshen. It is now doing the work of eight human beings-quietly and mechanically.

“We have quite a few robots that are in production on our shop floor, however, when we look at the size of our company, we’re a $2 billion dollar publicly traded company with over 10,000 employees, we know that the future at Lippert needs to have quite a bit more automation, including robots,” said Mereness.

On the factory floor today was a high tech—low temp freezer press that cryogenically cooled rubber parts to 125 degrees before they became axle inserts.

At plant 4-B Lippert has an automated brake press with a robotic arm that does all the heavy lifting.

“We’d like to set a goal for ourselves as at least having another 100 robots in production five years from now” Mereness said. “We build a high number of SKU’s, we’ve got to have a lot of flexibility from a manufacturing and tooling standpoint, so we can’t automate and set up robots to do, you know, an entire factory. What we can do is look at high tech machines and robots to be able to improve our quality while reducing labor at the same time.”

While the R-V industry has typically been stereotyped as ‘low tech,’ Mereness is doing his best to change that. Lippert rents a wing and often lends a hand at the ETHOS Science Center in Elkhart; a facility dedicated to teaching about science and technology to school age children.

Today, Andrew Kuruda was in the Lippert lab at ETHOS: “I’m a (college) student. I take all my classes online. I’m a full time intern at Lippert.

Kuruda was in the Robotics Club at Elkhart Central – and was coached by a Lippert employee. “I could see myself working for Lippert in 10, 20 years, being that more robots are going into Lippert, and they’re going to need more people, I see that there is going to be a big need for people like me.”