Jayco is the most renowned manufacturer of campers and caravans in Australia. As a market leader with a history of nearly 50 years, it boasts modern and technologically advanced production facilities and is one of the most horizontally integrated firms in the caravan industry. Our team had the opportunity to visit the company’s manufacturing site
Words and photo Antonio Mazzucchelli
When we visited Jayco Australia, we were truly impressed by the organization, technologies and size of its industrial complex, which includes the production of most of the components used for building recreational vehicles, such as caravan chassis or fibreglass laminates for walls. It is located at 1 Jayco Drive in Dandenong, about a 40-minute drive southeast of Melbourne. Our guide for this extraordinary experience was Ken Miller, the Component Innovation and Technologies Manager at Jayco. But before delving into the production processes, let’s take a look at the milestones in Jayco Australia’s successful history.
How the journey began
The Jayco journey started in 1975 when its founder, Gerry Ryan, started the first prototype camper project for Jayco from a shed in Cranbourne. The first Jayco product came off the production line in early 1976.
Output hit 560 vehicles in the first year, and it continued to expand its early offerings of campers before moving on to Pop-Tops. Jayco introduced motorhomes to its product line-up in the early 2000’s and later produced its 100,000th RV in 2006. To date, the brand has crafted over 200,000 RVs for Australian customers to enjoy.
In 2007, Jayco moved to a state-of-the-art manufacturing complex and headquarters at 1 Jayco Drive in Dandenong, outside Melbourne. The 50-acre site includes a purpose-built 60,000 m² facility that houses seven specialized factories – caravans, pop tops, camper trailers, lamination, chassis and quality testing.
Jayco prides itself on prioritizing being ‘Australian Made’ in every aspect of its business. With around 1,100 employees contributing to the production of each RV, from crafting the chassis to sewing soft furnishings, Jayco is built by Australians for Australians.
Jayco’s success does not solely depend on its commitment to ‘Australian Made’ but also its relentless focus on innovation. Jayco has introduced several world-first technologies, including Amazon Alexa integration and a 360-degree camera on all RVs. In addition to these advancements, Jayco has invested in state-of-the-art technology, such as the custom Italian-built double edge banding machine, which has revolutionized production efficiency.
Currently, Jayco Australia holds a market share of approximately 33%, with the majority of its production consisting of caravans (about 70%), followed by motorhomes, campervans, and pop-up trailers
How a caravan is built
Jayco Australia is probably the most integrated RV manufacturer in the world. It has his own GRP laminates production company and most of the frames come from Metal Techs, which is another one of the associated companies. It has also technologies and presses to produce walls and roofs by itself.
Every day, 60 completed caravans roll off the production line which is situated in a massive warehouse and consists of 35 individual stations that the caravans move along.
The manufacturing process for Jayco caravans begins in the chassis shed, where the company constructs its hot-dip galvanized endurance chassis on-site – a unique approach compared to many other manufacturers. The chassis is assembled and welded before being sent off-site for galvanization. Once the chassis returns to Jayco, all other chassis components are added, including drop jacks, jockey wheels, steps, wheels, water tanks and suspension.
Each station on the production line has a queue of caravans, which move along every 44 minutes. The caravan manufacturing process takes approximately three and a half days from the time the chassis enters the line until the caravan is finished. The initial stages involve a lot of wiring and electrical roughing. Next, the interior of the caravan is built from the inside out. This includes loading all the cabinetry and furniture onto the caravan’s floor and securing them in place. Then, panel construction tough frame walls are put up and all the furniture is screwed down.
Around one-third of the way along the production line, Jayco caravans undergo an independent quality audit gate. Quality control is a key focus for Jayco, and the production line includes two quality audit gates, manned by independent testers who are separate from the production process. There are also several other informal quality checks along the line. Any issues found during the quality audit gate must be addressed before the caravan can move forward.
Following the completion of the construction phase, the caravan moves on to receive finishing touches. The addition of insulation and a fibreglass skin to the roof comes first, followed by the cutting of holes for the air conditioner and roof hatches. The entry door and awning are installed next, and at this point, the interior design elements are put into place. Towards the end of the production line, a qualified plumber inspects the gas and water fittings before the caravan undergoes a final quality check.
Afterwards, the caravan moves on to a bay for weighting, where every detail is registered on the computer for future reference. Then comes the water test, where each caravan undergoes a 25-minute shower test in one of the three water testing bays. The water used is recycled and captured by large tanks beneath the ground. The rolling road station is used for on-site suspension testing and to check if there are any issues with the cupboards or furniture. The rolling road simulates a bumpy ride to ensure that everything stays in place.
Fabrics, upholstery and pop-tents
The motorhome facility
To take advantage of the recent surge in the motorhome and campervan market in Australia, Jayco has upgraded its South Dandenong manufacturing facility and expanded it.
The company has relocated the motorhome manufacturing unit from a 9,000 m² facility to an extensive 14,000 m² one featuring two state-of-the-art production lines for motorhomes and campervans. This means that Jayco has been able to increase manufacturing volumes.
Jayco also created a dedicated R&D area to work closely with the products and develop new prototypes, designs, and concepts. It also implemented a new materials area that allows stock to be directly delivered from JIT suppliers based on production runs. Additionally, it has developed a designated training area, named the Dojo area, to provide its employees with extra training opportunities as as required, whether they’re new to the company, transitioning to different roles, or in need of any additional support to strengthen their knowledge and skill sets.
10 surprising things about Jayco Australia
1 – Jayco began operations in 1975 from a small garage in Cranbourne. The Jayco head office and production site is now located in Dandenong.
2 – Jayco is a family-owned business and founder Gerry Ryan remains the company’s CEO to this day.
3 – Jayco is the largest recreational vehicle manufacturer in the Southern Hemisphere.
4 – An RV comes off one of Jayco’s six production lines every 8.6 minutes.
5 – When it comes to staff, Jayco has around 1,100. The youngest employee is 17 years old, and the oldest celebrated his 70th.
6 – The longest serving employee at Jayco clocked 38 years of service in October 2022.
7 – Jayco purchases enough fibreglass sheet in one year to cover the Melbourne Cricket Ground playing surface 15 times!
8 – Jayco introduced the wind-up camper trailer in Australia.
9 – Jayco has delivered two world-first releases – the introduction of Amazon Alexa in its RV’s and 360-degree cameras on its caravans.
10 – There’s around 75,000 m² of roofing at Jayco HQ, which is equivalent to almost three Melbourne Cricket Ground playing grounds. When it rains, water is captured and used to irrigate gardens and flush toilets at HQ.