November 28, 2014

Affresh Tablets for the Dishwasher and Garbage Disposal

While the aroma of baking pies and browning roasts are welcome in the kitchen, dishwasher and disposal odors are not. To keep smelly kitchen odor at bay and ensure appliance workhorses run smoothly, Whirlpool introduces the new affresh Dishwasher and Disposal Cleaner, the only national two-in-one cleaner for dishwashers and garbage disposals.

If not properly cleaned as indicated in the Use & Care guide, all brands of dishwashers and garbage disposals have the potential for odor. Dishwashers in particular can be a problem when dirty dishes sit for multiple days or when food residue is not completely rinsed away. Until now, no product on the market removed both dishwasher and garbage disposal odors.

An extension of the affresh washer cleaner brand, the affresh Dishwasher and Disposal Cleaner is simple to use. Simply place one tablet in the main dishwasher detergent tray and another tablet in the prewash tray or in the bottom of the dishwasher. Run on the heaviest cycle – without dishes – using the hottest wash temperature to activate the affresh chemistry to dissolve and neutralize odor, leaving behind a crisp citrus scent. If consumers have a garbage disposal, they should follow up with a tablet in the disposal to remove odor in the drain pipe, which connects to the dishwasher. To clean the garbage disposal, place one tablet into the disposal, slowly run hot water through the disposal for 15 seconds. Turn off water and disposal, and wait 30 minutes before flushing with hot water.

Affresh Dishwasher and Disposal Cleaner is safe for septic tanks, dishwashers, disposals and plumbing, and is the #1 recommended cleaner by KitchenAid, Whirlpool, Maytag and Amana brands. For more disposal and dishwasher maintenance tips, consumers should review their appliance Use & Care guides.

The MSRP for a package of six affresh Dishwasher and Disposal Cleaner tablets is $5.99 and is available at major home appliance dealers.

How Whirlpool Gets It’s Newest Products

Ever wonder how that new Whirlpool, Kitchen Aid or Maytag appliance with all the newest technology came to the marketplace?  Well, Whirlpool, the parent company has formalized a process to sort through the thousands of ideas that, at any one time, are percolating up from product groups, new business development teams, and i-mentors — employees trained in innovation who have been deployed throughout the organization to identify promising ideas. From that first grab-bag of concepts, managers green-light several hundred for study, giving each a slice of an innovation budget that  ballparks at several million dollars for North America this year.

Ultimately, almost half of those flow into its innovation pipeline, which currently numbers close to 1,000 products. On average, 100 are introduced to the marketplace. “Every month we report pipeline size measured by estimated sales, and our goal this year is $4 billion,” says Norena. With Whirlpool’s 2008 revenue totalling $18.9 billion, that would mean roughly 20% of sales would be from new products.

Beginning Affresh

The process has helped Whirlpool find such innovations as Affresh, a hockey puck-shaped tablet that consumers can toss into front-loading washers for a cleaning cycle. In less than two years, Affresh, which works with any brand of appliance, has grown into a line of four products that Whirlpool expects to be an $80 million to 100 million business by 2015. Taking Affresh as a guide, here’s a look at how the Benton Harbor [Mich.] appliance maker evaluates new ideas.

Affresh came out of regular consumer research a few years ago: Water and chemical residues caught in the seal of the door of front-load washing machines, customers told Whirlpool researchers, were causing odor problems. [Not all of Whirlpool's concepts emerge from customer research; Garage Gladiator -- a line of storage containers and appliances for garages and workshops -- was conceived in a sales and marketing brainstorm about how Whirlpool might develop products for rooms beyond the kitchen and laundry room.]

For an idea to be considered for development, it has to meet Whirlpool’s three-pronged definition of innovation: It must meet a consumer need in a fresh way; it must have the breadth to become a platform for related products; and it must lift earnings. [Add-on innovations are expected to deliver results within months, while new-to-the-world ones are given three to five years.]

Charles Martin, director of strategy and marketing for new business development, who led the Affresh development, already knew there was a consumer need. Four to six weeks of research and concept development convinced him he could clear the second hurdle too, by expanding into kitchen appliances too. And Whirlpool had good reason to expect profits. Sales of front-loaders are on the rise — 1.91 million will be sold this year, according to IBIS World — and the machines are expected to eclipse top-loaders in three to five years.

Clearing the Hurdles

Research findings are written up in a document Whirlpool calls an “opportunity brief.” The brief is reviewed by a 15-member panel of innovation experts and regional managers from across the organization, including marketing, sales, customer service, and engineering. This i-board meets monthly to review potential projects, and allocate funding. Martin’s team was granted several thousand dollars to continue development of the Affresh idea.

Roughly 40% of ideas that make it to this stage end up in the innovation pipeline. Those that don’t get tripped up by the next hurdle: the i-box, a three-page scorecard that forces innovation teams to be very concrete about expected factors such as revenues, technical feasibility, relevance to the brand, and market trends. “The i-box needs to make the case that there is a consumer need, that the concept meets it, that it does it better than existing products, and so on,” says Norena.

The i-panel then reviews the i-box, with each member scoring how well the concept meets each criterion on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the strongest. The averaged scores determine whether a concept will be funded [at which point it officially enters the pipeline] or shelved. “Everything checked off,” says Martin of the Affresh i-box.

Whirlpool currently has some 1,500 projects shelved for a variety of reasons. An idea to create an “on the move” appliance for campers, for instance, was held because it strayed too far outside of Whirlpool’s home-focused comfort zone.

Thumbs-Down on a Steam Dryer

Ideas can also be held simply because of overall resources and priorities. Every year, Whirlpool sets a goal for innovation-related revenue for each product team. “We might say we want 80% of new revenues to come from innovations to core products, 15% from innovations that leverage or expand the core, and 5% from totally new innovations,” says Norena.

A concept for a dryer with a steam function, proposed in 2004, ended on up the shelf because it didn’t match up with that year’s priorities. Three years later, when the fabric care team began working on a relaunch of Whirlpool’s Duet line, the innovation manager for the laundry team reviewed the shelved concepts for features to include in the new machines. Duet dryers came to market in 2008 with the steam function. [Concepts can also be resurrected by the i-board, which reviews all active innovation projects and shelved ideas during an annual pipeline cleanup.]

Once Affresh and other new concepts officially enter the innovation pipeline, they go through Whirlpool’s standard stage-gate process. Affresh’s development differed only in that it was developed in partnership with an outside partner, a chemical company that Whirlpool won’t identify, one of Whirlpool’s first open innovation projects.

The first Affresh product — a three-pack of tablets for cleaning front-load washers — showed up in appliance stores in September 2007 at a suggested retail price of $6.99. Whirlpool won’t reveal specific numbers, but says that first-year sales exceeded Martin’s estimates by 200% and were robust enough for the company to expand distribution to national grocery chains such as Kroger Markets. Building on that, Whirlpool developed a more efficient product for service technicians and, coming next month, an Affresh-branded dishwasher and disposal cleaner.

Washing Machine Care From Whirlpool

Last year at this time, Whirlpool introduced Affresh, the tablet that cleans the inside of high efficiency washers, helping to reduce the musty smell that some washers get.  Now, Whirlpool introduces the Affresh washer cleaning kit. The kit includes Power Puck tablets and Grit Grabber cloths to more effectively remove and prevent odor-causing residue than using bleach alone. The Power Puck tablets use oxygenated bubbling action to penetrate and remove residue that can accumulate where it is hard to reach — behind the washer drum. The specially formulated Grit Grabber cloths give consumers added power to clean where they can reach by breaking up residue around the rubber door seal and detergent dispenser and locking it into the cloth.

“While not every washer will experience odor, it’s possible in all washers. Due to their efficient design, modern HE machines seal more tightly and use less water than older, less efficient washers which increases the potential for residue to build-up,” said Mary Zeitler, home economist for the Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science.

Odor may occur when residue from detergents, lint, sloughed off skin cells and soil accumulates in areas of the washer where water cannot rinse. The new Affresh kit offers a comprehensive approach to odor-causing residue by enabling consumers to clean both around the washer door and hard-to-reach areas behind the washer drum. Use of the new Affresh kit should not replace routine washer maintenance recommended in the washer’s Use and Care Guide. Routine measures such as leaving the door open after each load and using only high-efficiency detergents in the proper amount can also help reduce the occurrence of odor.

The Affresh washer cleaning kit includes three septic system-safe Power Puck tablets and six pre-moistened hypoallergenic Grit Grabber cloths and is packaged in a reusable container to make routine maintenance a snap. It is available at retailers nationwide with an MSRP of $10.99. For more information, please visit www.affresh.com