Imagine a dinner where the people seated at your table invented an appliance that uses radio frequency to dry clothes, a dishwasher that adjusts its effort based on how dirty the dishes are, and a food processor with a fully-adjustable cutter. Those inventors and more than a hundred others recently gathered for a celebration of ingenuity at the 2018 Whirlpool Corporation Patent Awards Dinner.
The event was filled with inventors from across Whirlpool’s product development spectrum. From engineering to design, the dinner was held to honor the many people responsible for the 678 U.S. patents awarded to the company in 2016 and 2017.
From advanced technology insulation that will change how people think of refrigerator design to environmentally-friendly methods for filtering and reusing water from a dishwasher cycle, area inventors received appreciation and award certificates from the company’s senior leaders.
Chief Technology Officer for Whirlpool Corporation Christian Gianni said creative design and ingenious solutions are the lifeblood of the company. “Innovation is how we achieve product leadership. It’s inherent in everything we measure and everything we strive to bring to peoples’ homes,” he said. “Without our great people thinking outside of the box, none of this would be possible.”
With every new and useful invention and design creation, Whirlpool Corporation protects its competitive edge by filing for patent protection. Patents prevent competitors from copying the work and benefiting from Whirlpool Corporation’s in-house ingenuity. Besides the countless hours of creating a new part, system, or design solution, the process of acquiring a patent is often long and complex requiring detailed drawings and descriptions.
Kirk Goodwin is the head of patents for Whirlpool Corporation’s North America Region and leads coordination of the awards dinner. “Invention and innovation is important and it’s what puts us ahead of the competition. As a patent protection team, we appreciate our inventors because they make our jobs fun. We might not get to do the inventing, but we get to play with the end result,” said Goodwin.
One of the 656 inventors who received a patent during 2016-2017 was David Gushwa. Gushwa started with Whirlpool bringing the first KitchenAid brand countertop oven to market. Since then, he’s worked on food processors, hand mixers, toasters, and blenders. Today he’s back to working on countertop ovens, ushering in a new line with a compelling design, excellent performance, and a competitive price. He holds 14 U.S. patents, six awarded in the last two years. “Some of my patented ideas are still far-fetched, but technology is catching up, enabling them to come to life,” said Gushwa.
Another inventor credits cross-functional team collaboration for his first patent. Arun Rajendran received his first U.S. patent award for developing radio frequency laundry drying technology. While not yet in production, his team developed a prototype to validate and demonstrate benefits through reduced energy consumption, drying efficiency, and better care for fabric that is superior to conventional dryers. “Cross-discipline collaboration fueled this project. The team pulled experience from mechanical design, drying fundamentals, and electrical knowledge to arrive at a useful and novel development,” said Rajendran.
“When people ask me why I have worked for Whirlpool for so many years, I tell them it is because we have the unique opportunity to make our consumers’ lives better every day,” said Pam Klyn, vice president and leader of the Vertical Axis Washers, Dryers, and Commercial Laundry Platform Teams. “Thinking about our past laundry innovations of steam in the dryer, bulk dispensing, fan fresh, and design and aesthetics–it is these inventions that made us the leaders in laundry and it is the patents we are recognizing today that will enable us to bring the next level of performance to our consumers around the world.”
U.S. Patent Quick Stats For 2016-2017
Patents Issued to Whirlpool Corporation: 678
Number of inventors filing from Whirlpool: 656
Major product category with the highest number of patents: Refrigeration (120)
Major product category with next highest: Laundry (101)
Number of first-time inventors receiving a patent award: 93