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issue: April 2003 Whirlpool Special Section

Whirlpool Special Section
Latin American Operations: Manufacturing with the Environment in Mind

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Following a decade of realignment, Whirlpool Latin America's manufacturing operations are more efficient and cost effective. Much of this is an outgrowth of the 1994 merger of Brastemp, Consul, and Semer into Multibras. Duplicated production capacity was eliminated or moved to make better use of the facilities, and multiple brands are manufactured in each plant.

The company now has four main manufacturing areas: Sao Paulo for cooking products; Rio Claro (Sao Paulo state) for laundry appliances and countertop dishwashers; Joinville (Santa Catarina state) for refrigerators and dryers; and Manaus (Amazonas state) for air-conditioners and microwave ovens.

All Multibras plants comply with international standards. Multibras is reportedly the first company in Brazil to have all of its plants certified to international standards. In fact, in 2002, the Multibras unit in Manaus was certified according to ISO 14001 for environmental management, OHSAS 18001 for health and safety, as well as ISO 9001, version 2000, for quality. These plants are oriented towards continual improvements both in the process and the production levels.

Joinville Consolidation

The Joinville facility is unusual for the degree of landscaping and number of flowers surrounding it. It includes a building with a workers' dining area and sports facilities. The main production here is of Consul and Brastemp refrigerators and freezers.

Within the last few years, Multibras made significant moves by sending Latin America refrigerator and freezer production to Joinville. Before 1994, this location was exclusively for Consul production, but now makes both Consul and Brastemp models.

The Joinville facility has a flexible manufacturing system that allows the concurrent production of several models. The plant works in two shifts, going to three shifts in the peak season. The manufacturing process includes, among others, plastic injection, vacuum forming, painting, and polyurethane foam, with a high degree of automation.

Models in the work cell area are tested on the line, and all refrigerators and freezers undergo a final test. Once they are passed, they are automatically packaged using shrink wrap with styrene corners. While it would seem that cardboard packaging would make sense in a country with an abundance of wood products, the company says that using shrink wrap is more productive.

A strong quality system is implemented on every critical part of the process, and there is a monitoring "on line" system to simulate a customer situation.

Completed refrigerators are taken via an overhead conveyor to a warehouse across the street, from whence they enter the distribution system. The company works with factory distribution centers, one major regional distribution center in Sao Paulo, and cross docking centers all over the country. The company applies an "in transit merging" strategy that allows it to cover the whole country with what it considers to be the best logistics in the industry.

Meeting High Standards

Since 1998, Multibras has been developing an Environment Management System. Concerned with the preservation of natural resources, the company is working on two fronts. One is through its appliances, by such efforts as improving energy efficiency and replacing ozone depleting CFC refrigerant in refrigerators. The other front deals with production methods and processes.

Reducing plant energy use is an important component. In a partnership with government agencies Procel and Cepel, Multibras implemented a Plant Facilities Energy Efficiency Program in 2000. The Joinville plant was the first to develop the project. Measures were taken to reduce energy consumption of motors, compressors, lamps, and transformers. Further steps are planned over the next 3 years. By its actions, the company estimates power stations will not need to release 247 tons of carbon gas (CO2) into the atmosphere. The technology used will be applied to other company units. In addition, information on the project is being made available for public use.

Multibras de Amazonia and Brascabos have initiatives toward integrated management systems in accordance with local priorities, but also incorporate global standards adopted by Whirlpool Corporation. Every year, Whirlpool promotes training programs on the environment. In May 2000, in Joinville, the training program involved 45 leaders who work in environment management at Brasmotor Group units in Brazil and Argentina.

More broadly, the company views itself as an ethical and socially responsible enterprise. Its commitment is to offer solutions that improve people's life quality, and it reports it is committed to a permanent quest for excellence in products and services.

Following a shift in production, all Multibras refrigerators and freezers in Latin America are made in Joinville.

APPLIANCE Magazine Whirlpool Special Section - April 2003




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