Supplier innovation critical to meeting future demand at Whirlpool

Christian Gianni, Senior Vice President Product Development


As companies outsource the tasks once performed in-house, they must change the way they work - and innovate - with suppliers, says Christian Gianni, senior vice president product development, Whirlpool Corporation. 

Over the last 50 years we’ve seen a complete about face in the way many manufacturing firms approach their suppliers. For example, in the 1960s IBM was the world’s largest computer firm with around 70% market share. It revolutionised computing with its mainframe, built almost entirely of components made by IBM. Fast forward to the 21st century and Apple is the world’s largest computer firm, at least by market valuation. It outsources the vast majority of its manufacturing. 

There are many reasons for this turn around. The economics of globalisation certainly plays a part, but we are increasingly aware that products have become so complex, and competition for consumer loyalty so great, no single company can keep abreast of all potential developments.

At Whirlpool we’re proud of our heritage in engineering and innovation in domestic appliances going back more than 100 years. In the 1960s we won a contract from NASA to provide project Gemini, a precursor to the Apollo programme, with a food and waste management system. We employ thousands of design engineers to ensure our products are meeting and exceeding consumers’ expectations. They are an amazing team, but we know that when we properly engaged and managed suppliers we can access ten times that capacity.

We need to do so because technology is changing and changing fast. In the new "Internet of devices" era consumers are expecting their appliances to provide better functionality and performance.  Multiple suppliers are required to create eco systems that can deliver new consumer experiences with connected appliances. Our latest washers and dryers can help you deal to the worst stains, order detergent automatically or provide better choices to save energy.  Connected appliances are just in their infancy but rapidly evolving. Through innovation, technology and partnering we are creating this space, one that we believe will completely change and improve the way appliances are used.

The connected appliance initiative is just one example of where we must partner. Given the breadth of industries and technologies involved in appliances today, we cannot possibly do it all on our own. Consumers are coming to expect companies to work together for their benefit, create better performance and convenience at the same time as minimising environmental impact. Only by understanding and nurturing relationships with the right suppliers can we innovate at a rate to stay competitive and exceed their expectations.