In today’s global economy, where many companies rely on outsourcing to cut costs and satisfy investors, the Roadmaster story is indeed a unique one. Established in 1970, Roadmaster, Inc. remains independently-owned, and manufactures nearly every one of its products at one of three Vancouver, Washington-based plants (175,000+ square feet total manufacturing space). From hard parts like tow bars and base plates, to processes like powder coating and quality assurance, it’s all done in-house.
The Roadmaster story begins with its founder, Jerry Edwards, who got his start sweeping floors at a truck camper manufacturer when he was in the 9th grade. A natural entrepreneur, Jerry noticed that the company was having difficulty meeting its cabinet production goals, and began building them himself with the help of his high school woodshop teacher. He went on to work for and manage other camper manufacturing companies, and later established Vetro RV and Repair in 1970 with little more than $3,000 and a tool box.
Four years later, Edwards established Roadmaster Distributing Company, selling RV awnings in Washington, Oregon and Idaho while simultaneously running Vetro RV. By 1978, Vetro RV had evolved into a full-service RV dealership — and as it turns out, that’s where his inspiration to become a manufacturer would come from. As customers inquired about a way to tow a car behind their motorhome, Vetro began custom fabricating tow bars on request.
A deep recession forced the closure of Vetro RV in 1982, but that same year, a local engineer presented a game-changing tow bar design to Edwards, who purchased the patent and subsequently made his own changes to produce the first run of what is now the famous StowMaster tow bar. In 1984, the Roadmaster Distributing Company business was sold to Coast RV, but Edwards wisely retained the Roadmaster name.
As Roadmaster, Inc. began to flourish as its own entity, Edwards soon found his subcontractors were unable to meet his expectations for quality and production time. He then adopted what remains one of Roadmaster’s core values: No Outsourcing. “I figured, why not just do it ourselves?” he recalls. “We can totally control the quality that way.” Not only quality, but turnaround time — by having the freedom to add or remove a second shift, Roadmaster could easily keep up with demand as needed.
Roadmaster continued to grow and add products to its line. Along the way, it established many firsts in the towing products industry. It purchased a local tooling company to speed development, and was the first company in the industry to use computerized Finite Element Analysis (FEA) testing on every new tow bar design. Combined with rigorous “real world” testing, Roadmaster ensures the structural integrity, longevity and safety of its products to the end user, and backs them with the best customer support in the business. “I’ve learned a lot by listening to our customers,” said Edwards. “I wouldn’t have a business without them.”
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