As you drive through the town of Greenville, Ohio and out towards farm country, you encounter two massive plants, both owned by the Whirlpool Corporation. Today our adventure was inside 1701 KitchenAid Way, the manufacturing home to EVERY single KitchenAid Stand Mixer in the world.
The KitchenAid plant employs just around 650 workers, one of which I was lucky enough to have guide me through the factory. Sharon has worked at this very plant for several decades, starting out in the paint booth and making her way to various stations involved in the production of the famed Stand Mixer, of which 6,000-8,000 are produced per day. She, as did all of the employees I encountered, talked with a sense of pride and duty when discussing the history, quality and manufacturing process of the 1.7 million KitchenAid Stand Mixers that pass through Greenville, Ohio every year.
These employees work on every facet of the mixer from motor assembly to application of their 56 color options that come in 3 different finishes. Everything from painting the mixers to the assembly of the wire whisks was seamless. This productivity and customization is what has allowed KitchenAid to expand its current plant, after just a few years of its initial opening, but to also build an adjacent plant in Greenville, Ohio.
To gain some insight as to the success KitchenAid has had with American Manufacturing, 50 Built had the pleasure of meeting with Bill Good, plant manager for KitchenAid/Whirlpool for 7.5 years. It was priceless to gain the perspective of a company that deals with so many facets of manufacturing and has endured the external threats from foreign made goods. Under Mr. Goods leadership, he and his team have successfully brought back the KitchenAid hand mixer from China, to be assembled once again in Greenville, Ohio. He talked with high hopes of furthering this trend by targeting their Coffee maker/grinder product line as the next possible reshoring effort.
When asked how KitchenAid has found success with the Stand Mixer for over a century, it was clear that a low overhead and customization were keys the their success. The customization and color variation that KitchenAid offers is only possible with an adaptive factory like they have in Greenville, Ohio, and by controlling the process internally. The technology and workflow in the paint shop allows them to produce multiple color runs in one day, with minimal downtime in between color changes.
As I talked to Mr. Good I became aware that the appliance industry is like most others, in that they deal with illegal dumping from cheap imports. There are current laws to protect them from this dumping, but they are simply not upheld. Our government is in a tough position on wether to support the American companies who manufacture their goods here or to support the American companies that have gone overseas. It was clear that to continue to do business as we are, and by ignoring current import laws that are already in place, we are rewarding the illegal dumping of cheaply made products and penalizing domestic made goods.
As I departed the KitchenAid tour I realized how much power we have as consumers. If we do our homework and learn about companies that are illegally dumping their products in the USA, we can avoid those companies and discourage that behavior. A quick web search brought up an anti-dumping article against Samsung and LG, and a disappointing follow up report how the US Government ruled in favor of these same two companies. We have the power to choose with our money. Support the companies who are making the effort to support our economy, even if our own government fails to do so.
Article #1 articles.boston.com
Article #2 news.consumerreports.org