After making the huge decision to purchase our Airstream in the late summer of 2013, saying we were excited would have been an understatement. In an amazing coincidence I had to be in Ohio for a business meeting in late winter of 2014. A quick map search showed that I would be just 90 minutes from Jackson Center Ohio, the location of the Airstream factory – affectionately referred to as the “mother ship”. The itinerary for this trip was now a no-brainer.
Airstream does a factory tour every Monday through Friday at 2pm. No reservations are necessary, just show up and meet in the gift shop area where you’ll sign a release form, don some snappy safety googles and head out on a 3/4 mile walk around the factory floor. The tour guide we had (and for the life of me I cannot recall his name) was beyond knowledgable, having worked at the factory himself for I believe 35 years (could be more, I am dropping the ball on this as it was months ago).
We were disappointed to find out that there are no photos allowed on the factory floor. Not sure why so many companies do this, but I am going to imagine that it’s about protecting the privacy of their employees, which at least makes it seem more reasonable.
Walking around the factory floor you see Airstreams being built by hand, in all stages of the process. It was actually a bit of a surprise how much of the Airstream is in fact assembled by hand. The only large scale pieces of “robotics” seem to be the laser CNC cutter for the huge aluminum sheets, and a pretty slick mechanism that flips the entire frame / undercarriage over so that they can more easily work on the underside. Aside from that, it was primarily people working in their stations with hand tools, from riveting the interior panels to assembling the windows and furnishings.
We had the serial number of ours from the order sheet and looked at every 27’er we saw on the floor to no avail. The tour guide caught notice of us reading the serial numbers on the units and inquired about our interest – this is when this tour got much more exciting.
In a true to their customer service commitment move, after the general tour, the guide went to the office to try to find where our unit was in the assembly line. After some research involving the floor manager and operations manager, not only did they locate our Airstream, but they towed it out to the lot so that we could take pictures and climb inside the not quite finished unit.
Despite being close to their closing time (we actually witnessed the shift change exodus which was pretty cool to see) the whole team at Airstream was very accommodating and went well out of their way to make our trip out there a special one.
If you’re interested in Airstream, or just enjoy seeing manufacturing processes and factory tours, this is certainly a great stop.