Whirlpool range division cuts fat from frame fabrication
Two-piece roll-formed oven frame reduces material, scrap and labor costs. The aluminum frame on Whirlpool‘s line of Eye-Level ranges also served as a drain-a financial drain.
The rising cost of aluminum, combined with the metal’s contribution to high scrap rates and resultant manufacturing delays, inspired Whirlpool to find a more cost-efficient trim replacement. The OEM worked with Pyramid Mouldings, Chicago, to find a solution.
The Eye-Level is a high-end line of free-standing ranges. These units incorporate either an eye-level microwave oven, or a thermal oven mounted directly above the rangetop.
In addition to the high raw material cost associated with their aluminum frames, the one-piece construction posed manufacturability problems. These extrusions required many secondary operations, such as hand-welding, which created aesthetic imperfections such as heat sinks and nicks.
Whirlpool asked Pyramid if there were a way to make these frames from roll-formed components. The OEM believed this would increase quality yields, both in manufacture and assembly.
According to Gene Slemmons, supervisor of range procurement for Whirlpool, a roll form can be produced without defects 98 percent of the time. Extrusions, on the other hand, run 5 percent to 10 percent scrap automatically because aluminum is very soft. Frame in a frame
Pyramid developed a “frame within a frame” configuration. The inside frame is made of cold-rolled steel, which can be powder coated separately from the outer frame. This eliminated the need to mask components, resulting in additional labor and finishing savings. It also meant greater design flexibility.
With our frame, Whirlpool could develop a product with more variations to accommodate different styles,” explains John Probst, Pyramid’s vice president and general manager.
“The inside frame is powder-coated in a white or black. The outer frame is furnished in both stainless steel and cold-rolled steel. Stainless steel can be brite or satin and the cold-rolled steel can be powder-coated various colors.” Efficiency pays
Material savings, less manual labor and reduced scrap translate into a frame that costs Whirlpool one-third less than its previous part.
According to Gene Slemmons, the new frame design makes for a more saleable appliance. This is a higher-price range, but the redesign has reduced its cost by 15 percent. The icing on the cake is Whirlpool’s ability to vary the unit’s styling and finishes to satisfy changing market trends.