For over 100 years, Whirlpool has led the appliance industry producing some of the most recognizable and dependable home appliances available to the consumer. Their brand suggests quality and value to their customer base.
The Whirlpool Corporation is a global manufacturer and marketer of home appliances, headquartered in Benton Charter Township, Michigan. As a Fortune 500 company with annual revenues of approximately $21 billion, 100,000 employees, and more than 70 manufacturing and technology research centers around the world, they lead the global market in home appliances.
To ensure they are able to maintain and improve on their market share and customer loyalty, the organization recognized they must make changes in their operations. This initiative by Whirlpool has been labelled ‘Manufacturing 2020’ and is being rolled out across the organization. Whirlpool has identified Byron Green as the owner of this global initiative in their manufacturing processes. The intent is to reinvigorate its manufacturing operations by fortifying production systems, standardizing manufacturing-organization structure, integrating advanced technologies, and continuously improving to ensure they are competitive in every region of the world.
Whirlpool has had a lean production system for years. The company has joined the World Class Manufacturing Association as part of its commitment to become a global leader in manufacturing. Whirlpool understands that manufacturing is littered with companies that see Lean manufacturing as a collection of tools that could be deployed for a quick win. Instead, they recognize that successful companies see Lean manufacturing as a bedrock of the culture. When there is a problem to be solved, as there always is in manufacturing, an organization must be absolutely dedicated to continuous improvement and the root cause problem-solving tools that are there.
The key difference between the former Whirlpool Production System and the new system is a greater focus on engaging employees in improvement. The input comes from the bottom to the top versus the top down. Whirlpool wants to create workplaces where employees are safe, focused on achieving business goals and feel that they are working at a place where they want to work.
Whirlpool won’t accept second-class status in the highly competitive appliance industry. They see improvements in its manufacturing operations as an important step toward maintaining a leadership role against strong competition from companies such as Samsung and LG.