Fisher & Paykel’s Keith Ferguson achieves a 50 year milestone

By Martin Vedris

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND: Designer Keith Ferguson spent the past 50 years employed by Fisher & Paykel in a career that has seen him develop world’s, including the Smart Drive motor and the inverted dryer concept, which is now a standard installation method.

In an address to shareholders in Auckland, New Zealand yesterday, Fisher & Paykel chairman, Gary Paykel described Ferguson’s career as, “a milestone of service that is very rarely achieved in any company.”

“Keith Ferguson registered 50 years service with Fisher & Paykel Appliances. Keith has worked in many areas of the business since he started as an apprentice in 1957 and in recent times has been especially influential in our motor technology developments. Thank you Keith,” said Paykel.

Ferguson told Current.com.au today that it has been a rewarding career.

“To stick with a company for 50 years it has to be worth working for and that says a lot for F&P,” Ferguson said.

“It’s been a great 50 years and I am looking forward to the next 50 years. It’s been an interesting company to work for and I’ve had quite a large number of different jobs within the company over that period of time, all of which have been fun. I have traveled extensively over the world, which is exciting. Also, the management has always been very supportive for me to be innovative.

“I’ve been responsible for the Smart Drive washer motor, which I took from its concept design right through to production and modifications that we’ve done right up to this present time.”

Ferguson is planning to continue working at F&P at least until the company establishes its new production plant in Thailand, which it is aiming to complete by December 2008.

Ferguson started working at F&P on July 8, 1957 as an electrical apprentice. As an apprentice he was sent to England to gain experience with Hoover Ltd. During the six months training there he worked in four Hoover factories in Scotland, Wales and two in England.

In January 1962 Ferguson returned to F&P to work in the Product Design Division where he stayed until 1984. Some of the projects he worked on include the front loading horizontal axis Bendix washer, the Launderoll horizontal top loading washer, window air conditioners, wringer washers, electric over blankets, commercial milk coolers, Hoover irons, washers, vacuum cleaner, refrigerators and chest freezers.

Ferguson designed the electrics and wash profiles for all versions of auto washers up to the demise of the 380. He also designed the patented F&P large pressurised cabinet tumble clothes dryer.

Ferguson also pioneered the inverted dryer concept, which is now accepted as a standard installation method for any dryer installed above a washing machine.

He spent some years as quality manager and transferred back to engineering in 1989 and from then he worked with Julian Williams and others to develop the direct drive motor that is still in use on today’s washing machine.

“Through the early part of development there were many people who said a plastic constructed motor would never work,” Ferguson recalled.

“This of course is always a strong incentive to drive you on to prove them wrong and so it became the reality as we know it today with many companies copying the concept.”

“The development of the motor required a technology of magnetising a rotor of 56 discrete magnets that had never been done before,” Ferguson said.

“With the assistance of the then young Christian Gianni we convinced a German company to produce the largest magnetising power unit to magnetise all 56 magnets in one impulse. The development of this concept is now used by our competition, regretfully.”

Ferguson also played a major part in the conceptual design of the Dish Draw motor and its automation. In addition Ferguson simplified the wiring systems using a new connector concept known as the RAST system.

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