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May '20

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64 • RV PRO • May 2020 rv-pro.com Sharon McCarthy remains active in the business, according Bakker, who has taken over much of the day-to-day direction of Rieco-Titan. Bakker has been with the operation since early 1996. A tool- and-die maker by training, he says early in his career he began designing the dies himself, which is a main reason he caught the McCarthys' attention. "At that time, they were having some issues with the jacks and their production," he says. "I came from tooling and made some changes that helped smooth out production in both the designs and in the actual assembly." Later, when a supplier folded, Bakker helped move the com- pany to a different screw jack. "I did a lot of research and redesign on that," he says. "That changed the look of the products and made a nice, clean-looking part." Because of that experience, Bakker adds that he also found himself doing more for the company in terms of talking with customers, going to shows and doing yet more design of custom products and brackets, so it wasn't a big stretch to become the operations manager following Bob McCarthy's passing. Talking with customers has been a hallmark of Rieco-Titan. McCarthy was known for chatting with clients to understand their needs and concerns, an approach that's led to some of the company's best-known products, such as the pop-up lift system designed for Palomino RV and used by Northstar. "We'd get feedback from the guys installing the jacks and we're always trying to find out what's going on, and if they're seeing issues so that we can address them right away," Bakker says. The most recent change comes to the company's elec- tronics package. "The remotes and the control box used to have little dip switches at the box, and they had to match in the remote," he explains. "Now, they just pair up; you press a button and the receiver knows the remote signal. It's just little tweaks that we make." Matching Up Sometimes a product doesn't even have to be new and improved to enjoy a renewed life in another market – or, in this case, the aftermarket. Bakker says the Rieco-Titan jacks and those from Atwood Products shared a pattern dating back to the time he started with the company. In other words, the two products matched both in terms of the brackets that go on the camper and the holes used to mount the jack. He speculates that's because, for many years, Atwood was the largest supplier of jacks to the industry and it supplied Lance Camper Manufacturing, the largest OEM in the truck camper market. "When I started, I was told that 50 percent of all truck campers were made by Lance, and everybody else added up to what they did," Bakker says. He might not have given it another thought – except that when Atwood's jack manufacturing operation was sold in 2014 to Lippert Components, Lippert subsequently shut down production of the Atwood products in favor of its own Happijac line. "That's when I started getting phone calls from people saying they had heard our jacks would match up with the Atwoods and wondering if they could just put one of our jacks on if they needed to replace just one or two of them," he says. Bakker says he knew they would fit physically, but he wasn't certain how they would match up because of different motor sizes and different gear ratios on the Rieco- Titan jacks. Ultimately, he went to Missouri to test them out with a camper owner there. Radzick operates machinery that allows Rieco-Titan to make parts to exacting standards.

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