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Advanced RV Finds Success With 4-Day Workweek

Advanced RV engineer Johthan Flick (left) with company owner Mike Neundorfer. Photo by Dan Shingler.

The following is a report from Crain’s Cleveland Business.

Many people have been coming into their workplaces less frequently than they used to in the days before COVID and the era of flexible schedules.

Except, of course, for those in manufacturing jobs. They still need to come in five days a week if the nation’s plants and factories are going to continue to pump out their products as they’ve always done.

But one Northeast Ohio manufacturer didn’t accept that his business couldn’t be a little more flexible. Employees couldn’t make the stuff they made in the factory in their own home — but did they really need to be coming in five days a week for eight hours each day?

Mike Neundorfer didn’t think so. He thought his people could work 32 hours a week and his business would still do well.

“People have lives,” said Neundorfer, the founder and owner of Advanced RV in Willoughby, Ohio.

And Neundorfer wanted his valued employees, as well as himself, to enjoy more of those lives. But he didn’t want to make less stuff.

As the name implies, Neundorfer’s company makes RVs — really nice ones, too. They start with a Mercedes-Benz van, such as the Sprinter vans that have become workshops on wheels for plumbers, electricians, and other tradespeople in recent years. (They’re bigger than a standard American-made van, with more room inside, higher ceilings and higher price tags to boot, with an average cost of around $80,000.)

Advanced RV then customizes them to each customer’s specifications, from the layout inside to the fabrics and materials that will cover the seats, floors, cabinets, and countertops. The company’s roughly 50 employees include designers, metal fabricators, upholsterers, cabinet makers and other craftspeople who turn each vehicle into a creation specifically designed for each customer.

Sometimes, they’re even designed for a specific purpose, such as the RV the company made for a customer who wanted to take it Burning Man and live off the grid. That van, in addition to the luxury interior and other features, included a full solar power system mounted on its roof.

Neundorfer searches high and low for his craftsman. His upholsterer used to work for one of the best hotels in Rome but wanted to raise his children in America. Neundorfer worked with him to get him through the immigration process and moved into Northeast Ohio in a process that he says took months, but was well worth it.

The end product is not cheap in its construction or price. Each van is different, Neundorfer said, so each is priced differently. But since he started 12 years ago, the price of finished vehicles has ranged from around $400,000 to $650,000. Advanced RV annual sales amount to more than $10 million a year, Neundorfer said.

So, when he started thinking about moving to a four-day workweek in 2022, he was careful. He did a lot of research. “I was fascinated by the possibilities it had for staff,” he said. “I had read quite a bit about it, I read a couple of books and a bunch of articles. I thought it would have a low probability of success but if we could do it, the benefits would be incredible.”

So even though Neundorfer was skeptical of the idea, he implemented it anyway. It was a matter of risk versus reward, he said. Both were great, but he wanted the reward more than he feared the risk.

He started having people work four days a week on April 1, 2022, and he wasn’t fooling.

Instead of working Monday through Friday, they would either work Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday, still at 8 hours each day.

But here’s the real kicker: their pay (all of Advanced RV’s employees are salaried) and benefits would not change. Seen through an hourly lens, they got a 20% raise.

In return, Neundorfer said he explained that the company needed to maintain productivity in the process. It would be largely left up to his employees to figure out how they could produce as much in four days as they once did in five. The company and its plant would continue to run five days a week, but Neundorfer said he hired no extra people to make that happen.

Read the full story from Dan Shingler in Crain’s Cleveland Business, click here.

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