Over 100 years of improving life in the home

Posted on 7 Sep 2023 by Lanna Deamer

The Manufacturer’s Lanna Deamer paid a visit to Peterborough-based Whirlpool, one of the largest global manufacturers of kitchen and laundry appliances. The company’s journey began with the development of the first electric motor-driven wringer washer in 1911, marking the humble origins of Whirlpool.

Over the years, the company has continued to pursue innovative ideas and create products that it believes will make a positive impact on the lives of users. With manufacturing and research centres spread across the globe, Whirlpool remains at the forefront of technological advancements. The company has expanded its range of appliances to encompass every facet of the kitchen, including ovens, dishwashers, hobs, and of course, laundry appliances.

While you may not think you own any Whirlpool products, you probably do as the company is also home to the brands Hotpoint, Indesit and Kitchen Aid. More than 27 million kitchen appliances manufactured by Whirlpool are in homes across the UK. The white goods manufacturer is headquartered in Peterborough and houses a dedicated team of 1,000 staff members who undertake various crucial tasks related to customer interactions.

This includes handling customer enquiries, diagnosing issues with tumble dryers, washing machines or fridges, performing repairs either remotely through phone support or dispatching engineers for in-person assistance, as well as managing product deliveries and retrieval of old appliances.

Within the Peterborough site, there are specific areas designated for different operations. The site accommodates 350 call centre employees, a reprocessing and recycling centre, an engineer training academy and a factory outlet. The outlet offers repaired machines to both staff and the general public at significantly discounted prices.

Given the substantial presence of Whirlpool products in people’s homes, it comes as no surprise that customer service is of utmost importance to the company. During my visit to the site, it was clear to see that Whirlpool is committed to prioritising exceptional customer service, ensuring that its customers receive the support they need when dealing with their appliances.

Ian Moverley, Head of Communications, Government Relations at Whirlpool UK

Ian Moverley, Head of Communications, Government Relations at Whirlpool UK said: “From a digital standpoint, we have observed significant transformations in how people purchase our products and engage with us, especially when they require customer service. There has been a substantial increase in individuals reaching out to us through various digital channels, extending beyond conventional phone calls. We now utilise platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter to provide assistance and information.

“Additionally, we have introduced a chatbot that effectively guides consumers, offering round-the-clock support for their enquiries and requirements. We understand that despite the presence of automated assistance, some customers may still prefer speaking directly with our team. In such cases, we are readily available to provide the necessary support and address their concerns. Our goal is to ensure that customers receive the assistance they need, precisely when they need it, leveraging the convenience and accessibility of digital channels while maintaining a human touch when required.”

Let’s do net zero

The company’s vision is to be the world’s best kitchen and laundry company, in constant pursuit of improving life at home. Whirlpool believes that home includes the planet that we all live on.

And the manufacturer’s commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility is shown through the actions it has taken in the UK.

Whirlpool has committed to reach net zero across all plants and operations by 2023.

  • Single use plastic removed from all UK sites (bottles, cutlery etc.)
  • Zero waste to landfill at the Yate manufacturing plant and Peterborough HQ
  • Recycle every part of the old appliances collected as well as the packaging of new ones
  • Partnered with Youreko to show the lifecycle cost of new machines, which enables consumers to make the most efficient choice for them
  • Green energy used on all 14 UK sites
  • Biofuel now used for on-site vehicles (such as forklift trucks)
  • Started a journey to switch all delivery and service vehicles to electric power
  • Safely remove all harmful gases from old refrigerators before recycling them
  • Reduced emissions linked to the use of Whirlpool products by 60% since 2005 and committed to a further 20% reduction by 2030

Earlier this year, Whirlpool, with its brands of Hotpoint and Indesit, announced that in the last 15 years over 850,000 appliances have been refurbished or recycled through its on-site processes at the Peterborough site.

Ian commented: “In the last 15 years we have made great strides in moving towards a complete circular production process. Eighty-five percent of what has passed through the site has been given a second life, with the remaining 130,000 units recycled by our on-site partner.

“We have also collected a further 165,000 tonnes of appliances to be recycled since 2010, providing the opportunity for the materials to be reused in new products; as well as opening three in-house factory outlet stores that are open to the public in Peterborough, Gateshead and Yate. We hope to open our fourth by the end of the year.

“We have for many years responded and adjusted to the growing demand for right to repair and offered greater access to more cost-effective appliances. The 15 year WEEE anniversary provided us with the perfect milestone to share just how responsive we have been, and will continue to be, to meet the demands of today’s consumer.”

Whirlpool is well on track to achieve its goal of becoming net zero by 2030, and is actively exploring opportunities to incorporate solar panels, wind power and other sustainable alternatives across all UK sites. Although the recent energy crisis has posed challenges, the white goods manufacturer remains committed to making consistent improvements year after year.

“For other manufacturers embarking on their own net zero journey, my foremost advice would be to engage your colleagues and foster their understanding of the path ahead. It is crucial to involve them, as their actions and contributions, no matter how small, can make a significant difference. Net zero progress is not solely driven by company decisions, but also by the collective efforts of every individual within the organisation,” suggested Ian.

Skills for life

The UK continues to face an enduring manufacturing skills shortage, which is a cause for concern. As an increasing number of schools prioritise higher education over vocational learning, there is a potential risk of inadequate training for highly skilled manufacturing roles. This not only results in skills shortages affecting various industries but also hinders overall economic growth.

While the UK boasts one of the highest university attendance rates globally, it also grapples with significant skills gaps in technical domains, including manufacturing. Addressing this disparity becomes essential to foster a well-rounded and thriving workforce capable of meeting the demands of the manufacturing sector and supporting the nation’s economic progress.

Ian concluded: “Undoubtedly, we have encountered challenges when it comes to attracting the specific talent we desire. However, at Whirlpool, we have observed that once individuals join our organisation, they discover the numerous opportunities and potential for career growth available to them. As an example, I have been a part of this company for 27 years, and during my tenure, I have had the opportunity to explore different areas, enabling me to develop new skills and expand my capabilities.

“When it comes to attracting the younger generation, we are actively highlighting the strength of our brands and our strong focus on sustainability. We recognise that these aspects hold significant importance for many individuals. Additionally, we are dedicated to assisting them in building a fulfilling career, as we understand the value of clear career development pathways and the ability to envision their professional growth within the organisation.”

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