FINDLAY, Ohio, May 5, 2016 – Just before Whirlpool Corp. turned the first shovel of dirt on a $40.6 million, 86,400-square-foot expansion at its Findlay dishwasher plant on Wednesday, a loud chant burst from a crowd of employees gathered for the event.
“Who are we?” they shouted.
“Ohio!” was the response.
That’s a point of pride for the plant’s 2,300 workers. They build 12,500 dishwashers per day, making it the world’s largest dishwasher factory, and Whirlpool is the only dishwasher manufacturer to keep production inside the United States.
The plant produces dishwashers for Whirlpool, Jenn-Air, Amana, KitchenAid, Maytag and six other brands.
Groundbreaking for the expansion, which was attended by numerous community leaders, was held Wednesday morning at the factory, 4901 N. Main St.
Construction is expected to be completed by fall, with new assembly lines operational by spring. The new lines, which will employ about 50 people, are needed to meet customer demand for dishwashers, company officials said.
In all, the corporation has invested $1.4 billion in new U.S. factories and updates since 2010. The company has plants in Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Iowa and Massachusetts.
It employs about 22,000 workers in the United States, including 10,000 in Ohio at plants in Findlay, Clyde, Marion, Greenville and Ottawa.
Whirlpool Corp. is also global.
It is the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances, with annual sales of over $13 billion, 68,000 employees, and nearly 50 manufacturing and technology research centers around the world. The company markets Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Brastemp, Bauknecht, Consul and other major brand names to consumers in more than 170 countries.
The story of the Findlay expansion has at least part of its roots in Radomsko, Poland.
Jason Ebert, a continuous improvement leader at Whirlpool Findlay, shared a story Wednesday about a trip made to Poland last year to investigate “best practice” operations at a sister factory there.
Ebert said plans for the Findlay expansion were shaping up, but it wasn’t without challenges. The factory in Poland, which is only about 10 years old, is considered state-of-the-art in dishwasher manufacturing.
For the Findlay team, which is working in a 50-year-old factory, “best practice” meant a complete redesign of the expansion proposed here.
Despite what appeared to be a setback at the time, Dale Laws, Whirlpool Findlay plant leader, said the result was worth all the effort by employees.
The expansion will feature more efficient assembly lines, reduced inventory, and is designed to better accommodate workers and respond to customers.
Laws said Whirlpool relied heavily on the expertise of its own workforce to design a high-functioning factory.
“We’re really trying to work on ways to better tap the knowledge of our workforce,” he said.
Brandon Moser, Whirlpool Findlay area coordinator, was honored Wednesday for his effort to put all the “puzzle pieces” together, Ebert said.
Laws said the factory’s business motto, “The best in the world from our family to yours … always,” captures the spirit of Whirlpool Findlay.
“We are part of a family here, as a team, as a community and as a worldwide corporation,” he said.
For Angela Rowe, 48, of Findlay, the idea of family is very connected with Whirlpool. Her father, brother, all four sisters, and her three sons have all worked at the factory. She eats lunch every day with her 22-year-old son, Stephen Rowe of Harrod.
Angela Rowe, who had just finished third shift, was all smiles early Wednesday at the groundbreaking. For the Rowe family, the expansion is a clear signal that Whirlpool Findlay is here to stay.
There were more smiles by Alice Lotz, 52. Her production line will be moving into the new expansion next spring.
She is a 14-year employee of Whirlpool Findlay.
“I love this place,” Lotz said as she enjoyed the lunchtime celebration. “It’s the best company to work for. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.”