Vol.1, No.12

whirlpool product lines, history and reviews.

This article is about Whirlpool Company, its history, its milestones each decade, from its start to the present (2005).

A washing machine like those made by Whirlpool
Photo Credit: Heather Mitzel
Whirlpool's original company name was The Upton Machine Company. Three brothers, Frederick, Louis and Emory Upton started the Upton Machine Company in St. Joseph, Michigan in 1911. Their first major order and major disaster came almost as soon as they opened for business. The Federal Electric Company ordered 100 washing machines, which were promptly manufactured and delivered. None of them worked. The cast iron gear in the transmission failed in each and every machine. This would be the end of the business for anyone except the Uptons. Louis Upton refitted every machine with a new cut steel gear, which fixed the problem. He did it personally, at the company's expense.

Upton believed that ethical conduct was just good business. Federal Electric immediately ordered another 100 washers.

In 1915 Federal Electric, Upton's biggest client began making their own washing machines. Upton traded $20,000 of its stock for American Tool Works. Making pop guns and small metal toys kept the Upton Machine Company out of the red. The American Tool Works netted Upton a significant profit until it was sold in 1925.

A reputation for doing the right thing for consumers and suppliers caused Sears, Roebuck and Company to add two of Upton's washers to its catalog in 1916. Sears marketed the washers under the trade name, "Allen", The regular model retailed for $54.75 and the deluxe for $95.00. At a board meeting that year, Louis Upton stated that Sears was selling the washers much faster than they could make them and they needed a bigger manufacturing plant.

In 1921, Sears loaned the Upton Machine Company $87,500 to expand their plant. Two years later, with only a handshake to seal the agreement, the Upton Machine Company became the only source for Sears electric and gasoline powered washing machines. The gasoline powered machines were big sellers in rural America were electricity was nonexistent.

In 1929, Upton merged with the Nineteen Hundred Washer Company of Binghamton, New York and both became the Nineteen Hundred Corporation.

Everything in the manufacturing plant was taken apart, crated and stored in 1942. Business didn't fail; they were making space for wartime production. Over 68,000 airplane propellers plus sensitive aircraft electric sightings are just two items that came out of this plant during the war. The Hundred Washer Corporation resumed making appliances in August 1945.

In 1950, the company changed its name to Whirlpool It markets its top loading washer under the name Whirlpool while still supplying Sears with their own brand top loading washers (Whirlpool was the first to make this-type washer).

In 1956 they conceived the "Whirlpool Miracle Kitchen" with the idea to use it as a test kitchen for new products. Publicity made this kitchen a hit all over the U.S. and the world. It's estimated that 15 million people saw this kitchen and loved it. A few of the "future" appliances in the kitchen were, audio-visual controls, dishwasher cart, and a rotating TV screen that monitored activity anywhere in the house.

The following year, Whirlpool built a "space" kitchen for the U.S. Air Force, in which our astronauts could cook and eat in zero gravity.

It was around this time that they moved administration to a 100-acre center in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Making money wasn't (and isn't) Whirlpool's only concern. They established the Whirlpool Foundation in 1951 and as of 2001; the foundation gave out more than $110 million in grants to various causes and agencies. For example, the American Heart Association and Indiana University are just two recipients. They also established the Whirlpool Financial Corporation in 1957 to extend credit to people who wanted new appliances but couldn't pay cash.

Whirlpool continued to grow for the rest of the 20th century. It diversified globally but continued to have appliances as its main concern. Its mission statement to be fair and honest with their consumers, suppliers and their community remains true to this day (2005).

They won the NASA Gemini project contract in 1962 and worked on developing food and waste management for outer space projects.

Whirlpool gave us the first new-to-market appliance in 30 years when it introduced the residential trash compactor in 1969. It also was the first company to set up a toll free number for consumer's service in the seventies.

Whirlpool Corporation continued its expansion world wide in the 80s and 90s. It became a stand-alone brand for Western Europe and opened subsidiaries in Eastern and Central Europe that continue to service the consumers there.

In order to assure its high efficiency and standard of quality in Europe, it implemented Operational Excellence to improve quality and lower costs. The program helped Whirlpool Corporation save $175 million in manufacturing costs in its first three years overseas.

Whirlpool came into the 21st century with implementing the Operational Excellence here in the United States and in Asia as well as Europe. Unfortunately, the lean manufacturing process contained in Operational Excellence had to deal with a supply chain (in the U.S.) that couldn't match product with buyer.J.C. Anderson, Reuben E. Stone and Mike Todman, all Whirlpool employees, worked on fixing this for over a year (2000-2001). Today Whirlpool's Supply Chain Strategy is the envy of other corporations.

Today the Whirlpool Corporation has annual sales of over $12 billion. It also has 68,000 employees who work in 50 manufacturing and technology research centers all over the world.

Some of the well-known names that Whirlpool markets are; Whirlpool, Kitchen Aid, Brastemp, Bauknecht and Consul (and others). Consumers in more than 170 countries buy these.

In conclusion, the Whirlpool Corporation is a good example of an American business. It started in America and is still headquartered here today. It's a business America is proud of because it has always run its business with honestly and integrity.