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issue: April 2003 Whirlpool Special Section

Whirlpool Special Section
Latin American Operations: Two Hundred Million Refrigerators Can't Be Wrong

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Headquartered in Joinville, in the southern state of Santa Catarina, Embraco S.A. (Empresa Brasileira de Compressores S.A.), a subsidiary company in the Whirlpool Latin America region, has plants in Italy, China, and Slovakia.

In its 30 years of existence, it has produced more than 200 million compressors. Most of the annual compressor production capacity is produced in the Joinville facility, which is described as the world's largest compressor operation. About 70 percent of Brazilian production is exported; the largest market is the U.S.

Embraco got its start in 1971 through an agreement between three Brazilian appliance producers. These companies - Consul, Springer, and Prosdocimo - were looking for a domestic refrigerator compressor source. Production began in 1974 in a location not far from the Consul refrigerator plant in Joinville. The first compressors used technology from the Danish company Danfoss.

Embraco and Consul were acquired by the Brasmotor Group in 1976. The Group already included Brastemp, a high-end, full-line white goods brand. About this time, Embraco began to focus on exporting. Shipments to the U.S. and Canada started in 1978, and a U.S. commercial and technical assistance office was opened in 1987. Today, Embraco North America in Duluth, GA, U.S. is responsible for sales of Embraco and Embraco Aspera in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. It manages product warehouses and serves more than 500 distributors.

A New Vision

International expansion continued with the 1994 acquisition of Italian compressor maker Aspera. The following year, the company entered into a joint venture with China's Snowflake Group, which operates in the household appliance sector. The Embraco Snowflake Compressor Company Ltd. is located in Beijing. An Embraco Slovakia plant in Spissk‡ Nov‡ Ves was inaugurated in 1999. The same year saw the establishment of Embraco Asia Trading Pte. Ltd., with a head office in Singapore.

Embraco has been associated with Whirlpool Corporation since the 1976 Brasmotor acquisition. At that time, the U.S. company had a minority stake in Brasmotor. Whirlpool acquired a majority stake in 1997. It has encouraged Embraco's efforts to obtain new business globally, while exploring fresh ideas and emphasizing innovation.

In 1999, the company began working on its latest Vision Project - now called the Continuous Learning Process. The objective was - and is - to define the company's future, study new fields of activity, and not limit itself to its dominant area - compressor manufacturing. A new goal, "To be the preferred provider of cooling solutions," was postulated for the 8,500 global employees.

The project has significantly changed the thinking within the company. As CEO Ernesto Heinzelmann expressed it in 2002, "Even without us realizing it, I am sure the Vision Project is already present in many things within the company. The inclusion of social responsibility as a strategy, as well as the effort to always have the best people, are good examples. The Vision Project has become an educational process, and we must bear in mind that the material we prepare must be for future generations."

Technology Emphasis

One key to the company's success has been its advanced compressor technology. Today the company has 32 laboratories: 12 in Brazil, eight in Italy, five in Slovakia, six in China, and one in the U.S. These support the technological development of new products. They also act as an extension of the customers' laboratories in seeking new refrigeration solutions. The company maintains technical cooperation agreements with recognized teaching institutions and research centers in Brazil and elsewhere.

Among the results of its efforts is the Rational Compressor, which boasts a reduction in energy consumption of 21-40 percent compared to other compressors on the market. It was introduced in 2001 and quickly found a favored place in the market as an energy crisis hit parts of Brazil. Another advanced model is the Variable Capacity Compressor (VCC), or intelligent compressor, which uses electronic controls to improve efficiency, temperature consistency, and noise.

As early as 1992, the company pioneered the use of non-CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) refrigerant compressors. Over the years, it has refined its technology and operation, and today offers models that operate with R-134a, R-600a, R-12, and blends. With the company's technology and global reach, six of the eight top refrigerator makers in the world use its compressors.

Widespread Locations

The company is based in a 954,000-sq-ft Joinville facility that includes its headquarters, technology center, and three plants that produce compressors and components. A few miles away is the company's foundry. Another facility in Itai—polis, also in Santa Caterina, is an extension of the components operation. It also assembles condensing units. The company plans to open a new facility to produce the control units for its VCC compressors and other electronic devices.

The Italian operation is located in Riva Presso Chieri, in the province of Turin. It has manufactured Aspera brand compressors since 1956. The Slovakian operation is located in Spissk‡, Nov‡ Ves, close to the border of Poland and the Ukraine. Total capacity in Europe is about 9-million units.

The Chinese joint venture makes only one product, the EC, which was developed for the Asian markets. The company has implemented many similarities in product design and in production techniques in its global operations. With this approach, engineers in one location can address problems that crop up in other locations. Also, all manufacturing plants are certified according to international standards. The company reports that it thoroughly treats its effluents and residues, has implemented selective waste collection, and has developed regular programs that aim to reduce electricity and water consumption in its industrial areas.

In a Joinville, Brazil, compressor plant, each unit is assembled in a mix of 30 automated and manual steps. These steps take place in assembly cells in a climate- and humidity-controlled area. The top three markets for Brazilian-made Embraco compressors are the U.S., Brazil, and elsewhere in Latin America. (APPLIANCE magazine photo.)

APPLIANCE Magazine Whirlpool Special Section - April 2003


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