June '21

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rv-pro.com June 2021 • RV PRO • 69 available or that are available in higher-end products that we can develop more cost-effectively to use on more entry-level units." As Raatz notes, the benefit of having product-development and engineering teams at WFCO's headquarters extends beyond creating new components. Like many U.S.-based companies, WFCO was hit hard by the pandemic, as many overseas suppliers were forced to temporarily suspend production. The electronics industry, in particular, was slowed by a lack of availability of circuit breakers – a prime component for products that feed power to onboard appliances and accessories. "The breaker shortage was so prevalent in the market – no one could get them," says Brent Lehman, director of sales. "Jamie's team worked with a local supplier that had GE breakers available. They weren't what we had been using, but we were able to quickly change our power center and distribution panels to accept the GE breaker, and Jamie worked with UL (Underwriter Laboratories, a safety organization that sets industry standards for new electrical products) to expediate certification with them. By doing this, the industry shipped more than 100,000 units since last fall that otherwise may not have been produced." That shortage of circuit breakers – which continues, says Raatz – is just one of a number of shortfalls that have affected supplier product delivery times to RV manufacturers. As Raatz notes, WFCO was forced to extend its lead times "from about five or six weeks of transit time to, now, 60 to 90 days." Ramping Up Product, Building Up Inventories With a majority stake within the OEM channel, WFCO is taking steps to ramp up production and build up inventory in its Elkhart warehouse to guard against future disruptions by adding another 34,000 square feet of warehouse space, according to Raatz. With the addition, WFCO will have "just shy of 95,000 square feet" of warehouse space available. "Our goal is to make sure we have enough inventory in our position to make sure we take care of all of our customers," he says. "We have a tremendous amount of market share that we need to be protective of, and our manufacturing partners need to have inventory support at all times. It's critical – they can't run production without it. If we're out of stock, the industry is going to be impacted quickly." Changes made to products to keep them in production also have increased the company's need for inventory. According to Raatz, WFCO has nearly doubled its SKU numbers in the last year, a number further increased by new lithium-dedicated components and the integration of a reverse-polarity function into many prod- ucts required by RVIA code as of July. "A number of our key industry customers have already taken on our reverse-polarity feature," Raatz says. "It's not a protection feature but a notification, so it won't shut the power off." As for boondocking, the management crew at WFCO doesn't envision the trend falling off in the future. "The product managers that we've talked to are all saying that it's not something they see going away anytime soon," Raatz says. "It's not a flash in the pan – and it's not just younger campers not wanting to park on a cement pad in an RV park. A lot of it is due to campground availability. Try and find a campground where you can go camp on a weekend if you haven't booked it well in advance. You just can't get in. "So, that pushes people more and more to ask, 'Where can I boondock?' People are being forced to have to go with alternatives of where they want to camp and what they want to do," he says. "We're helping them to do that." Application Engineer Mike Miles tests a prototype power product he helped develop to ensure its compliance to design specifications. The product was developed at WFCO's Elkhart facility.

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