Two years ago, the world’s leading appliance brand established a partnership with Industrias Haceb to open the first washing machine production plant in Colombia and the Andean region. When a company like Whirlpool is looking for a new place to invest, countries will compete to be chosen and gain the funds and benefits of that investment. Such benefits include economic and social development, better quality of life, international positioning and increased visibility for the chosen country and city.
Two years ago, the world’s leading appliance brand established a partnership with Industrias Haceb to open the first washing machine production plant in Colombia and the Andean region.
One of the reasons why Whirlpool decided to invest in Colombia, and specifically in Antioquia, was the strategic position the country has in the Andean region and Central America, as well as its human talent and experience, which is exemplified in Industrias Haceb. As Alejandro Toscano, Government Affairs & Communications Manager of Whirlpool Latin America, explains, “this is one of the main conditions a company looks for when investing, because you cannot carry out an investment without skilled labor to move it forward.”
In addition, Haceb’s industrial park (Haceb is a leader in the Colombian home appliance market) and the existence of access roads for adequate logistics leveraged the investment of this multinational company, which in Latin America had only previously had a washing machine plant in Brazil.
A 50/50 partnership
Industrias Haceb and Whirlpool signed a joint venture agreement for the production of washing machines. The Colombian company provided the local knowledge and acquisition of human talent and the multinational corporation the experience and the technological development for manufacturing washing machines. The production equipment was imported from Spain, Italy, the United States, and Japan, which means the new plant, located in the municipality of Copacabana, has the best technology. The partnership was completed via the incorporation of the company Haceb Whirlpool Industrias S.A.S. which had an investment of USD50 million. Fernando Szewkies, the company’s CEO, explained that the alliance is purely industrial—the plant produces about 70 models of washing machines for both brands—because in the market they remain competitors. Each partner has their own strategies and commercial teams. Currently, the joint company exports high-tech and superior quality washing machines to 17 Caribbean, Central and South American countries.
A job opportunity
Foreign investment in a city brings new job opportunities for its people. The Haceb-Whirlpool company has generated nearly 200 direct jobs (around 50% are women) and more than 1,000 indirect employment opportunities through its providers and the supply chain.
However, this is not just about hiring new employees; they must be prepared and trained to understand the production standards of the company and know how to fulfill their job responsibilities. Everyone who enters must therefore first attend the Escuela de Destrezas (in English, Skills School), “an investment we make to ensure we have the best employees and thus, together with the technology we have, achieve the best quality and highest productivity and efficiency standards,” says Szewkies. This also demonstrates the partners’ interest in offering their employees the best working conditions and generating loyalty, a sense of belonging and motivation to grow together and work to develop and strengthen the Colombian industry. “We challenge ourselves to do things better and better. Even though we already have very good indicators in quality, productivity, the environment, safety and health, we know that we can keep improving. Continuous improvement is the cultural foundation of this company,” concludes Szewkies.
The partnership’s achievements
In two years of operation the Haceb- Whirlpool washing machine plant has achieved national and international recognition for its quality, innovation and actions to reduce the environmental impact of its operations. It has also been recognized for exporting the latest washing machine technology to 17 countries and for its constant search for new markets. This benefits both partners: on the one hand, Haceb was able to enter into washing machine production backed by a company with 106 years of experience in the manufacturing of such appliances and, on the other hand, Whirlpool opened a modern and strategic plant for the Latin American market that operates thanks to the commitment and willingness of local human talent that quickly adapted to the company’s global quality standards.
Building a network
The Red de Ensamble (in English, Assembly Business Network) is an alliance of six local companies to promote the development and competitiveness of Medellín’s manufacturing sector. The network attracts national and international suppliers and relevant technology, in addition to creating tailored human capital. Industrias Haceb is part of this network. ACI Medellín has a coordinating role within the network: it suggests and generates pertinent and strategic meetings for its members, provides them with support and manages various events to show the benefits of the city and its industrial wealth.
In order to have foreign investment in a city, both the needs of the investing company and the conditions the city offers, for example, the human talent of its inhabitants, are taken into account.
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