Manufacturing Savvy

Whirlpool CEO Not 'Buying' Claims that Manufacturers Can't Produce Effectively in US

Jeff Fettig, CEO of Whirlpool  Corp. (IW 500/63), told a very happy crowd in Toledo, Ohio, earlier this week that "when you think about manufacturing and you think about Whirlpool, Ohio, is Whirlpool for us."

Five of Whirlpool's eight U.S. plants -- and almost half its 22,000 U.S. employees -- are located in Ohio.

Wouldn't it be great to hear that same sentiment from CEOs across the country with each dedicated to a particular state?

Well Fettig doesn't seem to think that's an unrealistic goal. In an article in the Toledo Blade on Fettig's speech to the Rotary Club, Fettig was reported as saying that he doesn't buy claims that companies can't manufacture their products cost effectively in the United States. He believes the offshoring storm has calmed, and expects to see some operations continue to shift back to U.S. soil.

"I think companies have gotten smarter about what the real costs of doing business are," he said. "Is it a massive trend? No, but I think it's a continuous trend in the right direction."

What makes the case of Whirlpool and Ohio even more interesting is that the company's labor and benefit costs are considerably higher in Ohio than they would be in some other countries, according to the article, but Fettig said they're more than offset by productivity gains and money saved in logistics.

And the company is fighting to make sure that the cost structure is fair.  On July 30, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a ruling that that foreign competitors were dumping products into the U.S. market. The ruling was based on a petition filed by Whirlpool in Dec. of 2011.

 "Whirlpool is committed to building products in the regions where they are sold and investing in our U.S. manufacturing presence, " said  Kristine Vernier, a spokesperson for Whirlpool. " Our investments will continue as long as we can compete on a level playing field, with all of our foreign competitors playing by the established rules.”

The company is walking the talk. By next year, 100% of the washers Whirlpool sells in the U.S. will be manufactured in the U.S.

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