September 17, 2014

Whirlpool Wins $1.78 Million From LG in Patent Case

According to Businessweek.com, Whirlpool Corp., the world’s largest appliance maker, won $1.78 million in patent- infringement damages from Korea’s LG Electronics Inc. in a continuing dispute over refrigerator technology.

After a seven-day trial in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, the jury of five women and three men also decided that Whirlpool didn’t infringe an LG icemaker patent. “We’re gratified that the jury found that our patent is both valid and infringed,” Scott F. Partridge, one of Whirlpool’s lawyers, said in an interview after the verdict.

LG, of Seoul, sued Benton Harbor, Michigan-based Whirlpool in 2008 alleging infringement of a U.S. patent for an ice dispenser. Whirlpool countersued, claiming LG infringed patents for in-door ice-access and warp-proof refrigerator liners. LG said in a statement it would seek a judicial review of the verdict.

During two days of deliberations, jurors repeatedly examined a row of LG and Whirlpool double-door refrigerators with icemakers lined up in the courtroom, comparing claims of the patents and how the equipment works.

LG had asked the jury to award it more than $1 million in royalties, and Whirlpool originally asked for a minimum of $22.1 million in its suit.

The case was complicated by a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling in Washington last month that LG didn’t violate a Whirlpool patent for ice storage and may still import refrigerators.

In its statement, LG said the jury “was not permitted to hear any evidence concerning the ITC investigation.”

LG is the No. 3 appliance maker behind Whirlpool and Sweden’s Electrolux AB. LG reported more than $7 billion in home appliance sales last year and is aiming to become the world’s largest maker of refrigerators and washing machines by 2012.

LG agreed to modify the design of the ice maker in some of its refrigerators to resolve part of the ITC dispute.

Whirlpool gets US Grant for Smart Appliances

Whirlpool has announced that it is the recipient of stimulus funds as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Smart Grid Investment Grant program.

The grant of $19.3 million over a two year period – which Whirlpool will match with its own investments – will help the company accelerate its work to deliver to consumers smart appliances that can connect with the smart grid. For example, the company recently announced that in 2011 it would deliver one million U.S. manufactured smart dryers capable of reacting intelligently to signals from the smart grid by modifying their energy consumption to save consumers money on their home electric bills. In markets where utilities offer variable or time-of-use pricing, these dryers could save a typical consumer $20 to $40 per year, while also benefitting the environment.

“The grants announced today are a great example of public and private partnerships that will create the next generation of energy saving solutions,” said Mike Todman, president, Whirlpool Corporation North America. “Smart appliances combined with time of use pricing offer consumers the greatest ability to save money on energy costs while benefiting the environment.”

In addition, the funds will complement the company’s commitment that by 2015 all of the electronically controlled appliances it produces – everywhere in the world – will be capable of receiving and responding to signals from the smart grid. This commitment is dependent on two important public-private partnerships: the development by the end of 2010 of an open, global standard for transmitting signals to and receiving signals from a home appliance; and appropriate policies that reward consumers, manufacturers and utilities for using and adding these new peak demand reduction capabilities.

New From Whirlpool – Duet Steam Washer – FanFresh

Have you ever left your laundry in the washing machine by accident, only to find it smelly and wrinkled when you finally remembered to put it in the dryer? Whirlpool brand has heard consumers’ call, and in response, is arming consumers with the best defense — a washer with the ability to keep clothes smelling fresh for up to 10 hours after the cycle ends with the industry-changing FanFresh option.

The Whirlpool Duet steam washer’s FanFresh option intermittently tumbles clothes in the wash drum for up to 10 hours after the cycle ends. Meanwhile, a quiet fan draws out moisture through a vent to help keep clothes smelling fresh and prevents wrinkles from setting in. According to a 2007 online survey conducted by Whirlpool brand, 72 percent of respondents said it is important that their clothes never smell sour when left in the washer, yet only 47 percent are satisfied that their current washer completes this task.

“Whirlpool brand is focused on offering consumers the flexibility to live their lives rather than plan around their laundry,” said Brandon Buckingham, senior brand manager, Whirlpool laundry. “The FanFresh option provides consumers with the opportunity to load their washer, run errands and go to the movies, and not worry about getting back in time to switch the wash.”

While the FanFresh option solves one of consumers’ biggest laundry problems today, the new Duet steam washer garners one of the most efficient energy ratings available from the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) -Tier III – meaning the machine features advanced water and energy savings for the consumer. In addition, the new Duet® dryer is the first in the front-load category to offer an Eco cycle that uses 40 percent less energy than a conventional dryer’s normal cycle when paired with a Duet® washer.

According to Whirlpool Corporation research conducted by Harris Interactive in 2008, nearly three quarters (72 percent) of adults actively look for the ENERGY STAR label when making purchasing decisions. With advanced water and energy savings for the consumer, the Whirlpool Duet steam washer is ENERGY STAR qualified and can save consumers more than $1,000 in lifetime water and energy costs when compared to a pre-2004 conventional washer, based on a 10-year life cycle. Couple this with the money saved in the dryer, and the savings of the Duet washer practically pays for the cost of the dryer. In fact, the new Duet pair is the industry’s most efficient laundry care system available based on time and energy usage.

The Whirlpool Duet steam washer has a capacity of 4.5 cu. ft., giving consumers the ability to wash up to 18 pairs of jeans in a single load. The Delay Wash setting can be used to set the washer to begin up to 18 hours later, perfect for timing during off-peak hours when utility rates may be lower or when unloading the washer is more convenient.

In addition, the Whirlpool Duet steam washer comes with the industry-first NightQuiet option, which further reduces operational sound and is great for those whose laundry rooms are close to living areas or bedrooms.

The Whirlpool Duet steam wash system adds the power of steam to select wash cycles to steam out tough stains, virtually eliminating the need to pre-treat, and removes up to 95 percent of tested allergens, including dust mites and pet dander. The Whirlpool Duet steam wash system received the highest rating for water efficiency, cleaning and capacity from a leading consumer magazine.

And steam is not just for the washer. The Duet steam dryer utilizes the power of steam to eliminate 99.9 percent of common household bacteria, ideal for those items that should not be washed such as backpacks, stuffed animals and pillows. And for those who want to avoid ironing and cut down on dry cleaning costs, the dryer offers a Quick Refresh steam cycle that tumbles small loads and uses steam technology to break down odors and smooth out wrinkles. In just 15 minutes, clothes are ready-to-wear.

The Whirlpool Duet steam washer (WFW9750W) will be available in White, Cranberry and Lunar Silver with an MSRP starting at $1,599, and the Whirlpool Duet steam dryer (electric WED9750W or gas WGD9750W) will be available in the same colors with an MSRP starting at $1,599 later this fall.

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.

Whirlpool’s Eco Kitchen Line

According to the US government, kitchen appliances use the bulk of our household energy consumption. In addressing the need to save energy, Whirlpool has introduced their Eco Line.  The line is designed to be as much as 290 percent more efficient than previous models and includes a Resource Saver refrigerator, Resource Saver dishwasher and Energy Save range.

With energy use equivalent to powering a 60-watt light bulb, the Resource Saver refrigerator exceeds Energy Star standards by 10 percent. To help stretch the dollar even further and better preserve food, the refrigerator’s 6th Sense technology automatically adjusts cooling to bring existing food to the desired temperature in half the time. A Fast Cool button immediately drops the refrigerator and/or freezer temperatures to accommodate new food additions, such as hot leftovers.

The dishwasher uses one-third less water and energy than dishwashers manufactured seven years ago. The savings is the result of greater water pressure to break up more food more efficiently. Synchronized spray arms clean dishes on the upper rack first, followed by the lower rack, resulting in enhanced cleaning performance.

Also in the Eco Kitchen line are two ranges equipped with an Energy Save mode. The feature conserves electricity when the oven is not is use. Similar to a computer’s sleep mode, it dims extra features such as the digital clock and control display.

The dishwasher retails for about $800, the range $700 and the refrigerator, which will be available in March, for about $2,000.

Appliance Manufacturers are Aiming at Boomers

What’s next?  The Baby Boom generation is everywhere.  As a child of the 60′s I’ve often had mixed emotions towards them – annoyance at how much attention they get combined with gratitude that they cause so many changes that I will benefit from in the future.  One of those changes is happening now in the appliance manufacturing business.  As boomers age, they are increasingly staying in their own homes and have the income to modify those homes accordingly.  Appliance manufacturers want to get a piece of that.  According to the Wall Street Journal, changes are being made.

In the kitchen, General Electric Co. is designing ovens with easier-to-open doors and automatic shut-off burners. A joint venture of Germany’s Bosch and Siemens AG has introduced a glass cook top for its premium Thermador brand designed to prevent boil-overs. Minnesota-based Truth Hardware reports booming sales for its remote-controlled window motors.

“This population is far more demanding and will refocus designers” on individual consumers, says Joe Coughlin, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab, which studies design and engineering for an aging population.

Among appliance makers, Whirlpool Corp. has long tested products with potential customers who are deaf, blind or arthritic. The testing with arthritis patients helped prod the Benton Harbor, Mich., appliance maker to offer pedestals that raise the height of washing machines and clothes dryers for customers with back problems.

[Whirpool dryer with pedestal] Whirlpool

A pedestal beneath this Whirlpool dryer reduces stooping when removing laundry.

Whirlpool also offers washing machines with large knobs that make louder-than-usual noise when they’re set, for customers with limited vision or arthritis. “It’s not one of those little prissy knobs,” says spokeswoman Audrey Reed-Granger. One model introduced last year plays musical chimes to indicate washing temperature or other features.

At GE’s consumer and industrial headquarters in Louisville, Ky., designers use “empathy sessions” to help develop new refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers. Industrial-design intern Joanie Jochamowitz, 22, wraps her knuckles with athletic tape and wears blue rubber gloves to simulate arthritis. She shoves cotton balls in her ears to simulate hearing loss, dons special glasses to simulate macular degeneration and puts dried corn kernels in her loafers to simulate aches and pains. She grabs a walker. Then she tries to peel potatoes.

“I don’t want to get old,” she says, as she hobbles around the kitchen, fumbling with potato peelers and stove controls, and nearly spilling a pot of boiling water.

GE began the empathy sessions last year so its young designers could better appreciate how consumers use appliances. “When you’ve got designers that are 25 or 30 years old, it’s very hard for them to understand what someone in their 60s or 70s experiences,” says Kim Freeman, a spokeswoman for GE Appliances.

The company also arranges focus groups where consumers cook a meal in a GE model kitchen while staffers watch through cameras and one-way mirrors. And GE videotapes appliance users in their homes. The summaries from these tapes are used in brainstorming sessions about design changes.

“We note what they are doing. We see if those behaviors happen more than once and why,” says Marc Hottenroth, industrial design leader for GE’s Consumer and Industrial unit.

These efforts have prompted several changes in GE product designs, including brighter LED lighting that improves visibility inside new models, such as one with a French-door refrigerator atop a bottom freezer. This year, GE introduced a single-wall oven with two cooking spaces that can operate at different temperatures. Its research shows boomers cook and entertain more frequently and like the two-ovens-in-one concept. Some models can be raised off the ground for easier access. “You don’t have to reach in as far,” says Ms. Freeman. She says it prevents people from stooping awkwardly, losing their balance and burning themselves on the hot stove.

GE has new dishwashers and washing machines that allow users to put in an entire bottle of detergent a few times a year rather than a smaller amount for every load. The machines are designed to reduce confusion and make housework less of a chore, particularly for older consumers.

GE product-development

GE

At an ‘empathy session,’ members of a GE product-development team tape their knuckles to simulate impaired dexterity.

Appliance manufacturers hope these design changes will buoy revenue. Sales and profits in the U.S. appliance industry are down this year because of the housing bust, the stock-market slide and the economic slowdown.  But for the long term, the appliance industry expects big returns because of baby boomers and hopes of a housing rebound.

Laundry Tips From Whirlpool

If you want good advice, go to the experts. I know I’m not alone in my opinion that laundry takes up way too much of my time. Whirlpool, a leading manufacturer of washers and dryers offers their advice on getting your clothes clean with the least amount of hassle.

  • As your laundry accumulates, pre-sort it into designated baskets for lights, darks and whites. This way, a load will be ready to throw in the washer whenever you have a minute to spare.
  • While sorting, don’t forget to close zippers, clasp hooks and check pockets to prevent snags and avoid washing tissues, money, lipstick, etc.
  • Streamline the laundry process by incorporating storage solutions and flat working surfaces into your laundry room. This will keep laundry where it belongs and eliminate the need to treat, sort and fold in other rooms of the house.
  • Wash small loads as needed between laundry days. Today’s high efficiency washing machines use substantially less water and energy than a conventional top-loading washer. Which means you can do small loads when you have time, rather than waiting for the basket to fill up.
  • Don’t overload the washer or dryer. Clothes come out cleaner and less wrinkled when given room to move freely.
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Whirlpool Named to ‘World’s Most Ethical Companies’ and ‘Most Respected U.S. Companies’ Lists

Whirlpool Corporation was recently named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute and one of the Top 25 Most Respected U.S. Companies by the Reputation Institute.

“We are proud to be recognized by Ethisphere Institute as one of the world’s most ethical companies and by the Reputation Institute as one of the most respected U.S. companies,” said Jeff M. Fettig, Whirlpool Corporation’s chairman and CEO. ” I am proud of all of our people around the globe who personify Whirlpool Corporation’s values and make recognition like this possible.”

World’s Most Ethical Companies

The Ethisphere Institute named Whirlpool to Ethisphere’s second-annual World’s Most Ethical Companies list. Ethisphere, a think-tank dedicated to the research and promotion of profitable best practices in global governance, business ethics, compliance and corporate responsibility, revealed the award at the Ethisphere and Forbes joint-conference, “Driving Profit through Ethical Leadership,” held on June 3 in New York, N.Y. The list of World’s Most Ethical companies also will be featured in the second quarter issue of Ethisphere Magazine.

Researchers and analysts reviewed several thousand companies in order to determine the finalists, which included a rigorous, multi-step evaluation process. The extensive research process included reviews of more than 10,000 of the world’s leading companies on six continents. Ethisphere analysts reviewed codes of ethics, litigation and regulatory infraction histories; evaluated investment in innovation and sustainable business practices; looked at companies’ activities to improve corporate citizenship; studied nominations from senior executives, industry peers, suppliers and customers; and worked with consumer action groups for feedback and rating.

America’s Most Respected Companies

In the third annual survey of U.S. consumers conducted by Reputation Institute, Whirlpool earned a Pulse rating of 74.41, placing it 22 on a list of the largest 150 companies in the U.S. and earning Whirlpool a Top 25 ranking in reputation among measured U.S. companies. Whirlpool also ranked 18 among the top 20 companies Americans say they would recommend to others.

Reputation Institute conducts an annual online Global Pulse Survey of the general public to measure the corporate reputation of more than 1,000 of the world’s largest companies within 27 countries. The companies were evaluated on seven key dimensions including products and services, governance, citizenship, workplace, innovation, leadership and financial performance. In this survey of worldwide consumers, Reputation Institute included 150 of the largest companies within the U.S.