Over the years we have toured many interesting factories, from the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, to a Harley Davidson assembly plant, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. We’ve also toured a number of RV factories, from Winnebago, to Heartland, to Renegade truck conversions, to name just a few. They have all been interesting and we’ve learned some neat things along the way.
Yesterday we got a private tour of the Blue Ox factory in Pender, Nebraska, makers of what I consider to be the finest towing products on the market. We have been using Blue Ox tow bars for most of our years on the road as fulltime RVers, and I’ve found that they build top quality products and provide some of the best customer service and support in the industry.
The company originally started out making agricultural products, including tractor cabs, mist bowers, batch mixers, cattle oilers, livestock trailers, and such. Today they still manufacture roller mills and Navigator Guidance systems for the farming industry. Their line of RV products include tow bars, base plates, steering controls, braking systems, motorcycle carriers, and fifth wheel hitches.
Paul Thomsen was our tour guide, and Mandy Johnson, Product and Markets Coordinator, accompanied us. It was interesting to see how raw steel comes in one end of the factory and goes out the other as finished products.
Paul said the company employs about 100 people, many of whom have been with Blue Ox for decades. Paul himself has over 30 years with the company.
Everything possible is handled in-house, including making their own shipping boxes.
The factory uses everything from mills and lathes to precision plasma and laser cutters, and robotic welders. At Blue Ox, it’s all about turning out the best product possible with the most efficiency and the least waste.
The yellow rails in this picture are on overhead track system. Components are loaded onto the system and moved about the factory during the assembly process. They don’t come off the track until they are ready to be packed and shipped.
Just as important as turning out good products is efficiently stocking them, and Blue Ox has an inventory system that tells them at any given moment how much of each items is available and where it is located.
New model cars mean that Blue Ox must constantly be designing new base plates to fit them, and Bob is in charge of that department. Here he is test fitting a base plate to a car. It’s a precise job, and a lot of the design is done with computers.
We really enjoyed our tour of Blue Ox. Thanks Mandy and Paul, for the tour and your personalized service.
While we were at Blue Ox, Mandy also had a tech service our tow bar, and when he returned it to us, it was like new again, with all new bushings, bolts and other wear items replaced. We’re good for many more years of towing as we go on down the road!
If you’re in the northeast corner of Nebraska, make it a point to stop by Pender and take a free tour the Blue Ox factory. Tours are given Monday – Friday at 2:30 p.m., and if you call ahead (402) 385-3051 they will make arrangements to accommodate visitors with special physical needs.
The factory also has a campground with full hookup RV sites for just $15 a night, and if you are in for service, or are a member of Escapees or WIT (Winnebago/Itasca Travel Club) there is no charge for camping.
For information on other factory tours nationwide, get a copy of the excellent book Watch It Made In The USA, by Karen Axelrod and Bruce Brumberg
Thought For The Day – There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age eleven.