Ohio, USA: Fisher & Paykel has announced plans to at least triple its workforce at its Clyde factory in Ohio, after cutting the ribbon at the official opening of its $US31 million North American operation last week.

At first, Fisher & Paykel human resources manager, Kevin Pullar, estimated the US factory could triple current employment to 115 people by the end of the year, but another executive within the company has since suggested this estimate is conservative.

“I think 115 is on the low side and a little conservative, particularly if there is an increase in sales of appliances or demand for motors from Whirlpool,” said the newly-appointed vice president – global manufacturing – Roger Cooper, who has been operations manager at Fisher & Paykel for the past 13 years.

Late last year, Fisher & Paykel announced it would relocate three factory lines from its operations in Queensland and Auckland to the new factory in Clyde.

The first line, which manufactures Smart Load washing machines, has already been installed within the 6,967 square metre factory, which currently employs 35 workers.

The second line, which will manufacture motors, will be relocated from Auckland in April and is expected to take 13 weeks to transfer. These motors will be used not only for Fisher & Paykel appliances, they will be used for Whirlpool’s new Oasis washing machine project at a nearby plant in Clyde, which employs approximately 3,000 workers.

The third factory line to be transferred will be the X1 Smart Load top-loading dryer which will be re-located at the end of June, and is expected to be fully-installed by September in time for the northern hemisphere winter.

According to Cooper, only three staff have currently relocated from the Queensland and Auckland factories to the Clyde plant, with an extra two employees expected to take up new employment by the end of the year.

Since announcing the transfer of manufacturing lines from Australia to the USA mid last year, there have been 24 redundancies at the Cleveland factory in Queensland. Due to fairly constant attrition at the larger Auckland factory, there is likely to be a negligible net impact from the transfer of the motor division next month.

According to Cooper, the reaction to the arrival of Fisher & Paykel in the USA has been very positive.

“The Governor of Ohio, Bob Taft, was very excited and made the effort of attending the opening of the factory, which is significant as there are only 35 people working there. We are a small fish swimming against the stream, as the area has been impacted by the closure of components factories supplying to automotive companies such as GM. In Clyde, it is very much against the run of play.”

Fisher & Paykel has an existing distribution deal with Whirlpool where it sells the American company’s appliances in New Zealand and also supplies them with components. In return, Whirlpool sells Fisher & Paykel appliances in the US and Europe.