10 July 2023
10 July 2023, Comments Comments Off on Jarod Lippert – Lippert
Jarod Lippert - Lippert

Managing success on the global market

Jarod Lippert has seen a lot of changes over a career that, so far, spans more than two decades at one of the world’s leading manufacturers of engineered components for the RV, recreational boating and automotive industries

Words Craig Ritchie

Following in the footsteps of older brother Jason, Jarod Lippert joined the family business in October 2001 as a business analyst, before ascending to the role of director of marketing and media in February 2015. Succeeding the retiring Joe Thompson as chief marketing officer in January this year, Lippert today holds responsibility for the development and implementation of the marketing strategy not only for the Lippert brand, but for the extensive portfolio of sub-brands acquired by the firm over the years, including CURT, Furrion, Ranch Hand, UWS, ARIES, Taylor Made and Lewmar, as they serve customers in markets around the world.
Lippert recently spoke with AboutCamp BtoB’s Craig Ritchie at the company’s Elkhart, Indiana global headquarters about current sales trends, employee engagement, and the role of automation in manufacturing.

Aboutcamp BtoB: We must begin with AboutCamp BtoB offering its congratulations on Lippert Components achieving US$5.2 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2022. That’s quite an accomplishment, and especially in a year that was defined by supply chain shortfalls and shipping headwinds worldwide.
Jarod Lippert: Thank you for that, and yes it was definitely a remarkable year on a number of levels. When business conditions become challenging it’s critical to find new opportunities and try and innovate with meaningful new products. I honestly believe that $5.2 billion in revenue figure could have been higher without those headwinds, but you can’t worry about things that are beyond your control.
This coming year will be an interesting one for everyone, with the end of governments distributing pandemic stimulus payments and a huge number of people in the US having only recently bought new units in the last year or two and who are not yet ready to think about upgrading. Clearly, sales of new units have slowed as a result, and are returning to more seasonal patterns, But campgrounds are full and people are using the product. In the big picture, that’s what matters. As an industry, we need to engage people for life, and that is what seems to be happening.

Aboutcamp BtoB: One item that stood out in Lippert’s 2022 financial report was the average level of content per unit. Is that a reflection of younger buyers looking for additional amenities that the traditional baby boomer market hasn’t demanded?
Jarod Lippert: I think that’s definitely part of it, and especially in terms of things like adding USB plugs and flat charge pads for mobile phones, which are obviously newer amenities that everyone wants. The level of electrification in modern units is higher than ever, and that brings opportunities to add exciting new features at a comparatively lower incremental cost.
Part of that growth lies in furniture as well, since we’ve all become accustomed to enjoying nicer seating in our homes and cars. We all like seats with added supports for greater comfort, and very soft upholstery that remains highly durable. I have to say, the craftsmanship that goes into upholstery work always impresses me and some of these pieces are just beautiful, very high quality designs that are built to an incredible quality standard, it’s a tremendous level of craftsmanship.
Of course our R&D team is always experimenting and researching consumer experience to be able to identify where the market trends are leading. We want to be able to anticipate the customer’s needs and be ahead of that curve.

Below: The Lippert Headquarters building in Elkhart, Indiana


Aboutcamp BtoB: That would naturally apply to both OEM and aftermarket product lines, no doubt. Given the number of relatively new units now in use, what is the company’s outlook between OEM and aftermarket for this year?
Jarod Lippert: The lion share of our business has historically been as a supplier to OEMs. Our aftermarket business is newer, and growing. There is a lot of runway for new aftermarket products this year, we just need to get some of the new stuff across the finish line and I think we’ll see some further growth there.
While our marine products are fairly universal, on the RV side most of the products we make and sell here in the US don’t really suit the demands of the European caravanning market, partly being a result of differences in regulatory or industry standards, and partly being just a reflection of the size and weight of the units in the US versus there. The reality is there are more European products that come over here for sale in the US, serving that Class B market, in both the OEM and aftermarket segments. That includes a number of North American OEMs who have become very interested in the acrylic windows from our Polyplastic plant in Rotterdam, as an example. Windows are heavy, so being able to cut weight is a big plus and it allows brands to differentiate from their competitors.
In some cases we will begin to manufacture products locally rather than ship them overseas if the demand is strong enough and steady enough. We have a bed lift line for caravans that we originally acquired in Italy. Now it’s become so popular in the US that we’ve begun to produce it here as well.

Aboutcamp BtoB: The comment in the March 2023 investor presentation calling for growth in the company’s international business was very interesting. Is that a result of this increased export activity?
Jarod Lippert: The market in Europe seems to be turning around a little bit, and early results are suggesting that that industry is beginning to show signs here and there of positive growth.
Here in the US, every source of data is showing things to be flat or trending down from where they were last year. Obviously, we’re comparing against what were some pretty remarkable volumes, but still. Inflationary pressures and higher interest rates have definitely had an impact on the market, so people who may have been sitting on the fence about buying a unit are now holding off instead of going to the dealership.
Where it goes from here is anybody’s guess. I’ve been here for 20 years and in that time the industry has gone through a couple of cycles, but this one is different. What really drove inflation levels up were supply chain shortfalls and higher shipping costs, not an economic collapse. It’s a very unusual situation, and not one that we’ve seen before.

Aboutcamp BtoB: On that note, how is supply these days? Has that settled down by this point?
Jarod Lippert: Not entirely. We still have a hard time getting some parts – not all parts – but some parts. So that is another unusual situation, and we continue to work at it. I’m very proud of how hard our team has worked to bridge supply gaps since the start of the pandemic, and find parts to ensure our customers get what they need. They continue to do a great job.



Aboutcamp BtoB: That’s good to hear, and especially in an environment where competition for great employees remains high.
Jarod Lippert: We’re very fortunate in that we have a dedicated, talented team. Labour is top of mind for a lot of people, and especially in this part of the US where there is so much manufacturing activity between the RV industry, the marine industry and the auto sector. There is always high competition for talented people with strong skills.
A while back we just made the decision that the best way to attract and retain talented people is by simply making our business a great place to work. And we’ve made a serious effort to think about the things that matter to people. The reality is there’s absolutely nothing stopping any of our employees from walking out the door and going to work for a competitor. But if people are happy, truly happy, then they simply won’t want to leave. So we put a lot of emphasis on ensuring our team members feel safe in their work environment, that they feel valued for the contribution they make, and that they can feel secure and part of a broader community.
We have invested heavily in ensuring our culture is professional and attractive, that team members have legitimate opportunities to grow with the company, and that we’re good corporate neighbors by being engaged with the communities we’re in and supporting philanthropic ventures. We do sometimes have people leave, but in a lot of cases, they come back and it feels good when they do. It means they did feel valued here, and they want to return to this environment we tried so hard to create. We really do want people to be happy here because, again, there’s nothing to stop them from leaving otherwise.

Aboutcamp BtoB: That’s an interesting approach to labour management – and quite different from that of the auto industry, which appears to have chosen to try and automate just about anything it can.
Jarod Lippert: I suppose it is, but automation does have a place in modern manufacturing. There are some processes which we try to automate, such as in our glass business and our chassis business. If you can have robots do jobs that could otherwise expose your team members to injury, then that’s a very good thing. And for products with a lot of repeatability, there is a case for automation.
But you have to be judicious about what you try to automate. A lot of the products that we build are extremely complex and require a level of craftsmanship that doesn’t always lend itself to robotics. We have some extremely complex processes in our chassis business, for example, and the furniture production is another area where there’s just a huge level of skill involved.
That being the case, we’re more focused on a process of continuous improvement. We have a program within the company called Just Fix It, or JFI for short. And we challenge every single team member throughout the entire company, no matter what level they’re at, to speak out if they see something in their everyday activities that could be made better. We’ve subsequently received thousands of these Just Fix Its suggestions come through for consideration. Sometimes they’re big things, most often they’re little, simple things but collectively, they all add up in a really meaningful way. So we now have entire teams of people devoted to this process of continuous improvement and the results have been nothing short of remarkable.
So whereas automation sometimes can’t come in and fix your problems, these little JFIs can have an enormous impact. It goes back to what we were saying earlier about employee engagement, people see their contributions being taken seriously and the entire workplace improving as a result of this team effort. Who wouldn’t want to be part of something like that?