Access to a comfortable bed, a kitchen and a flat screen television – whether you’re traversing an Alpine pass, driving along the coast or cruising down the motorway: Motorhome travel is becoming increasingly popular. The Caravaning Industry Association (CIVD) calculated that in Germany last year, the number of permits for motorhomes increased by a quarter to about 35,000. This trend did not go unnoticed by Capron GmbH, which is based in the city of Neustadt in the Saxony region. The company, which is a member of the Erwin Hymer Group, is growing steadily and offers a range of models from compact vehicles all the way to luxurious family-sized vehicles with six sleeping berths.
The Carado and Sunlight brands of motorhome are sold in over 30 countries, with Europe being the largest market. In the 2017 business year, over 8,500 vehicles have already left the factory. Capron manufactures the models on a 450 meter production line, which is the industry’s largest in Europe. Over 40 vehicles are produced each day in the 37,000 square meter production halls. More than 600 employees work to fulfill their customers’ requests and provide mobility solutions with a personal flair.
Since the very beginning, Capron has placed great value on lean production processes, qualified employees and high flexibility. Since the first vehicle left the production hall in Neustadt in 2006, vacuum handling and clamping technology from Schmalz have played a critical role in the company’s production strategy.
How Vacuum Technology Helps Build a Motorhome
It all started with a clamping system for various steps in the preproduction area. Capron implemented a vertically integrated production strategy and manufactured the wooden interior itself – from the flooring to the wall paneling. A total of about 200 vacuum blocks from Schmalz are used in six machining centers. Some of the components need to be reworked manually before they are ready for installation. Schmalz has the perfect solution for this process: a vacuum clamping table. “It clamps the workpiece securely while giving us unobstructed access to it. We can complete our work without having to reclamp, which would take a lot of time,” says Toni Pietsch, Head of Product Management at Capron.
Capron uses nesting machines to mill shelves, cabinet doors and table tops from large-format wooden boards. A tube lifter Jumbo is used to load these machines. “Our employees value the easy and reliable handling and the ergonomic design of the operating elements,” says Toni Pietsch. Because the employees need to handle workpieces with different sizes and properties, Capron uses a wide range of special suction cups on its lifting devices. As a specialist for system solutions, Schmalz supplied Capron with several highly responsive column-mounted jib cranes, which along with the lifting devices were specially designed for the particular application. The Saxony-based company also relies on Schmalz vacuum technology when installing electrical devices in the motorhomes. A tube lifter JumboErgo, for example, is used to precisely install refrigerators without damaging them.
A Simple Solution for Tricky Roof Installation
One of the trickiest handling tasks is lifting the 120 kilogram roofs onto the vehicles and installing them with precision. For this step in the process, Capron uses the vacuum lifting device VacuMaster. It has a seven-meter-long load beam made from sturdy steel, which is equipped with six suction points. Despite the roofs’ enormous size, just one employee is needed on the ground to precisely position the gripper on the component. The employee activates the vacuum with a remote control and then raises the roof by 90 degrees to install the roof lights. After these are installed, the employee again swivels the roof by 90 degrees and positions it precisely on the vehicle. A manual slide valve is used to quickly shut of the vacuum – which is produced by a pump – and release the gripper from the roof. The roof and the side walls then need to be glued and sealed. “Installing the roof places high demands on the handling technology. With the VacuMaster, we can complete the process quickly and reliably. The system also protects our employees’ health,” says Pietsch.
Using vacuum technology along the entire added-value chain has really paid off for Capron. Around 30 Schmalz lifting devices are used in their production area. “This offers significant advantages for our processes. In the past, two employees were needed to transport heavy goods. The lifting devices let us save on personnel, improve the ergonomics of the workstation and handle the goods more quickly,” explains Toni Pietsch, whose goal is to provide technical assistance for as many processes as possible. The components manufactured in the preproduction area are delivered directly to the production line with high reliability, which keeps warehousing costs low. “Vacuum technology ensures that our processes are stable and allows us to achieve the highest quality,” says Toni.
Capron values effective collaboration with its project partners. “Trust and technical consulting are deciding factors. Our collaboration with Schmalz and their Service department has been exemplary,” says Pietsch. Capron sends wearing parts such as vacuum blocks or suction plates directly to Glatten. The Black Forest–based Service department quickly replaces the parts or repairs them, if possible. And as the company searches for further process optimizations, vacuum technology is likely to play an important role. As Toni Pietsch concludes: “We tackle new challenges together, and Schmalz ensures that our solutions are implemented effectively.”