One of the things we decided we wanted to do not long after we ordered our NextGen caravan was a Factory Tour. We inquired as to whether this would be possible and we were told that it was.
NextGen Caravans are built by networkRV, in the Melbourne suburb of Campbellfield. So we booked some flights to Melbourne a few weeks in advance, thinking that our Greyline would be in production by then. Due to the fact that we changed a couple of things in the interim, seeing our van on the production line didn’t happen. But we still went ahead with the factory tour as we were both keen to see how a van was built.
Meeting Joe and Aka
We rolled up to networkRV on one of the worst days Melbourne had had for months. It was blowing a gale and bucketing rain so the opportunity to be outside was minimal. Even through the heavy rain the first impression I got was, “Wow, this place is tidy for a factory”. At a quick glance we could see that the factory was in 2 locations, opposite each other on the street.
We wandered into the office to meet Joe, the owner and CEO of networkRV. Joe has had networkRV for about 5 years. Instantly we could tell he had a real passion for his business. The NextGen van came to reality 3 years ago and has been his dream.
We then met Paul, Joe’s right hand man and best known as “Aka”. Aka is a real character and with over 17 years experience in the van industry, he has a passion for ‘custom’ vans. He is very interesting to talk to and very knowledgeable. What a great pair of people and we could tell straight away how passionate they are about their industry and the NextGen Caravans they produce.
Walk Around Time
Next it was time for us to slip on some Hi-Vis vests and take a walk around the two sites. We really didn’t know what to expect, apart from the fact that this was where our new home was being built. With this in mind, and our eyes looking at everything and taking lots of photos, we started our journey around the NextGen production process.
The chassis for your new van is custom built to your specs by G & S Chassis in Melbourne. They arrive fully assembled and ready for the top to go on. While we were there, there was a chassis arrive for a Greyline, so I got to walk around and check out a similar chassis to ours from above. Very interesting to look at it from another angle. G & S sure do make a quality bottom end to your new home away from home.
This side of the factory fascinated the both of us. Everything that goes inside your van is cut out, edged and finished in this one huge area. We watched C&C machines cutting out a dinette and smaller pieces being fed through edging machines. Smaller sections like the bed base, kitchen cupboards and walls are pre-assembled here before travelling across the road to join the production line.
Now I’ve been a truck driver for a long time and the way these sub sections were packed just to cross the road was fantastic. They were stacked on oversize pallets with the appropriate chassis number or name on the shrink-wrap they were wrapped in. On closer observation there were pieces of cardboard placed between any surface that might rub or mark another. I have seen freight travel between capital cities treated worse than this, and these were just crossing the road. A huge thumbs up.
The Assembly Line
At the time we were there they were doing a run of NextGen Limited Edition’s. This meant all the vans on the line were basically the same. They were just at different stages of production. Having a look at how the walls are fabricated on a huge bench before being erected onto the floor of the van was interesting. The amount of wiring running through the walls was incredible, there were just wires running everywhere.
I was a little disappointed that there were no composite sided vans on the line to check out. That would have been good to see. There were 3 composite vans outside in the rain that were ready for final inspection, They were waiting for gas and electrical certification. Seeing them at the halfway point would have been interesting. That’s okay – next time we are in Melbourne, NetworkRV will be on our “To Do” list. We were told by both Joe and Aka that visitors are more than welcome. If you want to see your own van at some stage of the manufacturing process, give them a call.
Our decision to choose a new NextGen caravan was certainly reinforced by this visit. I have been in the transport occupation all of my life. I have spent time in many factories, production facilities and warehouses. Joe has a very clean, productive and happy workplace in NetworkRV. A worker in the factory, while we were looking at a van, asked us if it was ours. We said no, ours was still a few weeks away. He replied with, very good, hope you have a nice day. We looked at each other and smiled, that was the vibe that we got from everyone.
On the day of our visit, Joe and Aka received the keys to expand their production facilities. The space where the interiors are built was half of a huge warehouse. They now have the other half of this space. This is their finishing area. This area is kept as dust free as possible allowing better sealer adhesion. This is where all the sealing is done around windows, hatches and doors. Decals are applied and any areas where water can get in are sealed. Minimising dust in the air from other production areas, is key to a well sealed van.
Being allowed to go through the NextGen factory, with no restrictions on what we could look at or photograph, really confirmed that we had chosen the right van for us. We highly recommend, that if you are able to, make a factory tour part of the process of buying a new van.