F&P's city staff numbers set to rise to 180

Fisher and Paykel Appliances site manager Michelle Read and production design manager Richard...
Fisher and Paykel Appliances site manager Michelle Read and production design manager Richard Butler head the company's central Dunedin offices. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Whiteware manufacturer Fisher and Paykel Appliances hopes to increase its Dunedin workforce to about 180 people by the middle of next year as it expands its production design and call centre staffing levels.

The appliance manufacturer in June last year moved to the Wall Street mall offices in central Dunedin with 138 employees, made up of 95 production designers, 27 call centre staff and the balance support staff.

Fisher and Paykel Appliances (F&P) site manager Michelle Read late last week said staff numbers were expected to grow to more than 180 by June 2011.

Production design manager Richard Butler said a further seven design production staff would join the company in the new year.

Despite their offices overlooking the heart of the city's retail centre, Mr Butler said the company had kept a low profile since the April 2008 closure of its North Taieri manufacturing plant.

That resulted in 430 people being made redundant as the manufacturing of its whiteware appliances range, including dishdrawers made at Mosgiel, shifted to Thailand and Mexico.

Mr Butler said F&P remained a major employer in the city, with more than 100 production designers and engineers working on designs for cooking and dishwashing appliances sold around the world.

Dunedin had benefited from the purchase, five years ago, of the United States stove brand DCS.

The US design office had closed and the role moved to the George St offices.

The up-to-240kg stoves and outdoor grills, specific to the United States market, were now designed or modified in Dunedin, tested in a purpose-built workshop and laboratory in the office and the specifications sent to a manufacturing plant in Mexico.

"All that work is now happening in Dunedin."

A "United Nations" of engineers and designers sit behind dozens of computers in the open-plan office: a mix of people from Argentina, Hungary, Russia, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Korea, China and the United Kingdom, New Zealand and other parts of the globe.

Mr Butler said they were charged with developing and updating products.

"We have got a lot of product that we are going to refresh to keep our brands alive in different markets, especially cooking."

The office had an intentionally casual atmosphere to allow the free and frank exchange of ideas and inspiration.

"You need to be able to talk openly to get the ultimate design," he said.

Mr Butler said the multinational workforce reflected the hunt to find the best people possible, and also a global shortage of design engineers.

There was no shortage of ideas and new designs, but such was the competitive nature of whiteware design that most of those plans and ideas remained confidential.

"We haven't even started down the road.

"We have production ideas we haven't even started yet."



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