Vendors Facing Further Factory Shutdowns

By Alan Wolf, YSN

Appliance and electronics manufacturers are contending with continued intermittent plant closures due to outbreaks of coronavirus affecting factories in the U.S. and Mexico.

In the U.S., Whirlpool has been forced to close its Amana, Iowa, manufacturing facility for a second time since March after a worker tested positive for COVID-19. The factory, which assembles French door, bottom freezer and built-in refrigeration for the Amana, JennAir, KitchenAid, Maytag and Whirlpool brands, will remain closed “until we are confident [the plant] is safe,” said David Cichocki, Whirlpool’s VP of U.S. Sales. He added that the Amana facility’s fulfillment distribution center (FDC) remains operational and is “loading and shipping products as normal.”

Electrolux similarly shut its Frigidaire refrigeration factory in Anderson, S.C., for a second time last week after an employee succumbed to the virus. According to a statement issued to local media, “We began taking safety actions [in] early-March and have taken many more since then including closing the campus, professionally fogging and disinfecting the full campus numerous times, [and] spacing out the production line and cafeteria. We have added outdoor cafeteria seating, new protective personal equipment such as facemasks, and Plexiglas safety barriers between workstations. Social distancing is mandatory.”

The facility was expected to reopen this week.

In addition, Samsung delayed the planned mid-April restart of its laundry plant in Newberry County, S.C. until this week, according to a report by BusinessKorea.

Meanwhile, south of the border, where Mexico declared a national public heath emergency on March 31, both Samsung and LG have closed their TV assembly plants in Tijuana, Reynosa and Mexicali, and delayed their reopening until this week and next, the Yonhap News Agency. reported.

Whirlpool too has shuttered a Mexico manufacturing plant, albeit due to “a recent parts supply issue,” Cichoki said. The factory, located in Ramos, assembles side-by-side refrigerators for Whirlpool’s full brand family. All other Whirlpool plants in Mexico remain operational, he said.

The refrigeration plant closures are further squeezing already tight supplies as consumers continue to stockpile food and snap up any remaining fridge and freezer inventory.

Chad Evans, AVB’s VP of Merchandising, acknowledged that freezers are “all but gone, and top mounts and side-by-sides are under pressure due to consumer demand and factory closures.” To manage the shortages, which could extend into summer, Evans advises BrandSource members to “Focus on the manufacturers’ promotional road maps; those products on promo are the products that vendors feel will be available.” He also urges dealers to work closely with their vendor/distributor reps to secure product, and to “Keep a close eye on local RDC inventory, as products can become available and be gone very quickly.”

Added Evans, “In categories that are constrained (like refrigeration), get what you can get wherever you can to fulfill your needs.”

Conversely, production appears to be slowly resuming on the furniture side of the fence, with both La-Z-Boy and Bassett Furniture announcing plans to resume manufacturing operations at partial capacity this week to work through existing backlog.

BrandSource is a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc.