Whirlpool gives consumers in Latin America a new way to access the oven on a freestanding range
How do you successfully change the time-tested design and operation of an appliance while also gaining the approval of consumers?
That was the challenge for Whirlpool Corporation Cooking Designer Wesley Mendez, who helped refashion how the oven door opens on the company’s new freestanding range platform: not downward, as has commonly been done for decades, but to the side.
“We are in constant pursuit of improving life at home through our appliances,” Mendez said. “On this project, we focused completely on how our consumers perceive a range and what points they care about.”
What resulted is an optional side-swing door on a new 30-inch freestanding range. Mendez, who is based at Whirlpool Corporation’s Global Consumer Design Offices in Mexico, says the distinctive feature evolved after seeing data indicating a shift in consumer buying behavior in Latin American countries.
“All those countries—most of their cuisine is based on the surface, so everything is fried or heated,” Mendez said. “But now people are willing to invest more in the oven—maybe to roast, maybe to bake.”
In response to growing interest in using the oven on a freestanding range and meeting consumers’ changing needs, Mendez says he and his team innovated a new solution to make the oven cavity more inviting for consumers.
“We thought it would be more approachable if we changed the way the door opens,” Mendez said. “Like a refrigerator, when you open the door, it’s a welcome for the consumer. You can get really close and you can have complete control of what happens in the rack.”
The challenge of redesigning the oven door was then posed to Whirlpool Corporation’s Global Product Development team.
“We had to translate a high-level concept to a manufacturable design.” said Ramiro Ruthes, Whirlpool Corporation System Integrator Leader for Freestanding Ranges.
Ruthes led fellow engineers in the construction of a new door that is able to swing more than 100 degrees from the opening of the cavity. He says the door also includes a step on the hinge to hold it clear of consumers while they’re accessing the oven.
“One of the main requirements was to develop the side-swing door using the same product platform and most of the parts of the current drop-down door,” Ruthes said.
Reengineering the oven door wasn’t the only focus for the Whirlpool teams behind the new freestanding range. They also improved the ergonomics and finishes of the handles and knobs. The burners are more efficient and the grates have been strengthened. The upgraded components are complemented by a glass backsplash that’s unique to the Latin American market. Mendez says consumers in the region are drawn to glass not only for its elegant aesthetic, but also because the material’s smooth surface makes it easy to clean.
Whirlpool introduced the side-swing feature to markets in Mexico in Q3 2019. Additional rollout is planned in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia as well as markets in Central America and the Caribbean in Q1 2020.
Mendez says initial reaction among consumers has been positive.
“The combination of improving the design, craftsmanship, fit and finish, touchpoint materials and this disruptive way of opening the door backed by our focus on usability-improvement—I think that is what makes this new range from Whirlpool Corporation a winning product in the market.”