Brinkley RV

Case Study

Brinkley RV Launches a New Range of RV Products, Manufactured in Its Newly Built Production Facilities with Integrated Smart Tech

Key Stats

Grant Amount
Company Size
Q4, 2022
Award Date

Company History

Manufacturing startup company, Brinkley RV, launches a new range of customer-driven RV products aimed to raise the bar for the industry.

Brinkley RV was founded in 2022 by 5 co-founders whose experiences and backgrounds are steeped in the RV industry. They are Ron Fenech, former RV senior group president for THOR and a co-founder of Grand Design RV; Ron’s brother, Bill Fenech, also a co-founder of Grand Design; Ryan Thwaits, founder of Red Rock Supply and Indiana Transport; and Nate Goldenberg and Micah Staley, both formerly of Grand Design. “They are what I would call the godfathers of the RV industry,” said Brinkley CFO John Schmidlin. As “serial entrepreneurs,” they all successfully established companies and led them to success.

Their goal in creating Brinkley RV was to re-ignite cutting-edge innovation and develop customer-driven product designs that aim to raise the bar for the RV industry. To achieve those goals, the founders purchased 260 acres in Goshen, Indiana, where there is room for 9 buildings of 175,000 square feet each. The first of 3 initial buildings is the initial production facility and corporate office. The second was completed and occupied in the summer of 2023, and the third—the lamination plant—is nearing completion. Built to be state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing facilities with fully integrated smart technologies, Brinkley RV’s production capabilities focus on product quality, customer satisfaction and productivity.

The result is 2 product lines—Model Z Fifth Wheels and Model G Toy Haulers. Both are designed with luxury finishes and thoughtful extras that make RV lifestyle the most comfortable and accommodating way to travel. Think contemporary interiors that rival refined homes with kitchens featuring waterfall-edge solid-surface counters, premium residential cabinets and drawers, and pull-out pantries, spice racks, cutting board and trash and recycling bins. There are industry-first frameless windows, fireplaces with 5,000 BTU electric heat, sofas and recliners with heat and massage, and prep for stackable washers and dryers and cordless vacuums. If the seasoned RV enthusiast can dream it, it’s likely found in the Brinkley RV lines.

The Project

Brinkley RV products are produced in state-of-the-art facilities with advanced quality control processes that ensure products are designed, built, and tested to exceed customer expectations.

Brinkley’s extensive advanced technology implementation permeates every stage of production. “From our perspective, new technology doesn’t necessarily help us build units more quickly,” John explained. “But it does significantly help us improve our product quality.” One of the last stops in production for every Brinkley RV is its “shaker table.” The RV unit is placed in a machine that simulates our product being towed down the road for 150 miles. “It sits there and gets shaken for 45 seconds,” John said. “Then we open it up and, if anything isn’t perfect, we know what needs to be fixed. We have tablets wherein issues can be documented and communicated immediately to our group leaders. The group leader will report any issue—maybe a screw that wasn’t tightened sufficiently—and that problem can be corrected.”

Another quality control step in the Brinkley RV processes is its newly implemented “Black Widow” camera system. “That’s the very last station in our plant,” John said. The unit is moved to a station where 7 cameras are mounted from the plant ceiling and 3 additional cameras are placed in the unit. With the click of a button a full set of photographs are pre-edited to provide a professional set of photos of that unit. “They’re not stock photos; they are actual photographs of that unit,” John said. “These photographs can then be provided to dealers through our dealer portal.”

Technology now impacts most of Brinkley RV’s production process. “If you just walk through the facility and compare us to other RV manufacturers, it may not be apparent that there’s so much integrated technology in our processes.” John continued, “It’s affecting processes in real time, and adjusting our workflow without necessarily making the plant floor look different in terms of physical equipment. While technology can be time-intensive to implement, it’s been a game changer for us.”

Another benefit, John said, is an improvement in quality control and customer service at the dealership level. Historically in the industry, if a customer came to a dealer with a maintenance issue with an AC unit, for example, the dealer would need to photograph the unit in place and send it to the manufacturer. “With our integrated technology, the dealer will have a detailed bill of materials and can identify what was originally installed,” John explained. “It’s called repair event cycle time—the amount of time the dealer takes to repair something in an RV unit. Unfortunately, the time can often be measured in weeks or even months. With our technology, there is no lag. We help reduce repair time at the dealer facility and get the RV back in service quickly—all thanks to that detailed bill of materials created as the unit travels through our production line.”

Manufacturing Readiness Grants (MRG) provided by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and administered by Conexus Indiana are available to Indiana manufacturers willing to make capital investments to integrate smart technologies and processes that improve capacity and productivity. Bringing a new, state-of-the-art RV product to market meant building new production facilities from the ground up. The integration of advanced technologies helped secure an MRG grant award for Brinkley RV.

Key Learnings

Scaling up manufacturing capacity means an investment in workforce growth and making the tech “easy to use.”

Brinkley’s workforce challenges have been different than most plants: Its workforce grew from 15 employees to 475 in less than a year. That’s one massive layer of complexity on top of a technology adoption project and new facility build. Add determination to manufacture products with attention to detail, and you’ve got a process that requires a capable workforce, including IT professionals.

Getting the workforce trained and on the same page is never an easy task. “Certainly, it’s not been without challenges,” John admitted. “A lot of the software interfaces were internally developed, and we have to troubleshoot issues often. But our workforce is constantly asking the right questions. What are the issues? What can we do differently? We’re very open-minded. Our IT team knows the goal is to make the tech super easy to use, and that’s how we’re going help our workforce embrace technology.”

Plans are still in the works for more growth on the 260-acre campus in Goshen. What’s been accomplished in our first plant will be replicated. But there’s no desire to keep doing more of the same. “We’ll continue to improve where we can and when we can,” John said. “That’s the big differentiator for us in the industry: We’re technology-focused, and all of these investments in tech are a big differentiator for Brinkley RV.”

“We’re technology-focused. All of these investments in tech are a big differentiator for Brinkley RV.”

John Schmidlin
CFO at Brinkley RV