Did you know your Samsung washing machine may have come from a state-of-the-art facility tucked in the scenic Midlands of South Carolina?
That’s right. In 2017, Samsung Electronics Home Appliances America (SEHA) opened its doors in Newberry, South Carolina. In the last four years, SEHA, which is Samsung’s first U.S.-based home appliance manufacturing facility, has assembled well over a million washing machines in a 1.5 million square foot building that houses more than 1,200 employees, many of which are local to Newberry County or the immediate surrounding area. SEHA has not only grown exponentially, but it has also become an important part of the Newberry community and a hub for manufacturing innovation.
We recently sat down with David Crumley, Customer Satisfaction Group Leader from SEHA, to learn more about the manufacturing process – and the people behind it – of Samsung’s energy-efficient washing machines.
Q: David, as someone who builds washing machines, can you please explain how they work? How does my washing machine actually clean my clothes?
Of course. There are four main factors that go into cleaning your clothes. There’s time, temperature, mechanical force, and detergent.
To explain this simply, let’s use a smartphone as an example. I think everybody in the world has a smartphone now. Almost every washing machine is controlled by similar electronics.
Let’s say time is one of your key factors in cleaning clothes. Well, if I put in 20 items of clothing versus two items, I need more time to be able to make sure that the clothes are clean. Depending on the capacity of the load, our washing machines will weigh themselves to calibrate and see how many minutes they need to get the clothes clean. Our new machines even have a special feature called OptiWash that not only weighs your clothes and determines cycle time, but also leverages a unique-to-Samsung turbidity sensor to determine the ideal amount of water and detergent to use in the cycle. It’s the best way to get your clothes clean.
Our new machines even have a special feature called OptiWash* that not only weighs your clothes and determines cycle time, but also leverages a unique-to-Samsung turbidity sensor to determine the ideal amount of water and detergent to use in the cycle. It’s the best way to get your clothes clean.
Q: How cool is that! A “smart” washing machine.
It’s amazing. You know, everyone says that their phone is a “smart” phone. You don’t hear people going around saying this is my “smart” washing machine. But that’s what it is.
Q: That also means so much less water and energy used, right?
Absolutely. For customers, when you start talking about energy efficiency, power consumption, amount of water saved – that’s all great, especially because these are also all the things that customers have to pay for. Everybody has to pay an electric bill. Everybody pays a water bill. The more sustainable that we can make each machine, the more we’re also saving the customers on their bills, which immediately matters to them. These are all things that we look at and consider when we’re designing new products.
Q: What does your washing machine production line look like?
We have two main production lines. We build both the top load washing machines and the front load washing machines here in Newberry, South Carolina.
One production line is set up for nothing but front load washing machines. That line produces several different models. You should know that it’s not like “today we build this model, and tomorrow we build a different model.” We can go through multiple model changes a day.
One day, we might be building one model, and let’s say it’s the white color version, and then all of a sudden, we switch to our champagne color, and then we switch to the black color version.
It’s very interesting to see how quickly we can change from model to model, and produce that day’s production demand.
And on our top load production line, it’s the same thing. We’ve got several different models, different colors. Every day we just do model changeovers and we produce what the market has requested.
The more sustainable that we can make each machine, the more we’re also saving the customers on their bills, which immediately matters to them.
Q: Impressive. Is it fun constantly seeing new improvements with each new model?
We’re always comparing the previous model to the new model, and doing verifications to see how much the new design has improved. We analyze the data to be able to say, “Well, we have not only reduced our power consumption, but now we’ve also reduced our vibration in the material, and reduced our noise level.”
It’s amazing how you can achieve this through such small changes. A lot of people think, and I was one of them once, that to be able to make that much improvement, we’ve got to really make a drastic design change. But with home appliances, you can make a minor change and be able to get results like that.
Q: Constant innovation. Have you ever encountered one of your washers out in the real world?
All the time. Sometimes I’ll walk into a hardware store to grab something quick for the house and I’ll always take a second to walk through the home appliance section. When you look at the line up of those machines, you’ll see ours that we assembled right here in Newberry.
As a matter of fact, about seven months ago I was walking through a hardware store and there was a lady standing there looking at one of our top load washing machines. I asked her, “do you know where that washing machine came from?” And she said “No, I don’t.” and I said, “It came from Newberry, one county over.”
Q: Can you please paint a picture for us of life in Newberry, South Carolina?
If you like small towns, it’s really nice.
We’ve got about 10-12,000 people, so it’s a very small, rural county. South Carolina is a small state, but we do actually have a whole lot of farming.
There is so much potential in Newberry. Not only as a rural county with rolling hills, forests and pasture, but also as a vibrant small-town hub for business. This is a place where companies set up their operations and find a lot of hardworking, dedicated people, who love their community.
Q: Sounds like a beautiful place for Samsung’s Home Appliance Manufacturing Plant. How exactly would you describe your job?
I’m in the CS group here at Samsung. CS stands for “Customer Satisfaction.” I’m responsible for everything “quality” basically – from incoming material that we purchase from our vendors and suppliers, and then all the way to the market. I’m responsible from the beginning to the end.
I have four different groups that work for me. I’ll give you a brief overview – there’s a lot that these folks do.
One is my Incoming quality group. They’re responsible for incoming inspection – verification of materials, and making sure that the incoming material meets the expectations and the specifications of our product.
Then there is our Quality Management group. They’re responsible for auditing our manufacturing process. They oversee the calibration of our tooling and equipment. They also verify our processes and procedures, and make sure that they are being followed, and provide corrective and preventative actions throughout the process to improve quality.
Then I also have our Outgoing quality control group, which is responsible for performing final testing of the finished product. They also do verifications and validations around things such as vibration, power consumption, etc. before the product ships to our customers.
My fourth group is our QA, that’s our Quality Analysis group. They’re also responsible for the validation of our product performance, such as energy efficiency and noise, and validation of design changes. The QA team additionally does transportation testing, to make sure that our products can withstand transportation across the United States.
On transportation testing – there are a lot of potholes on our roads , and so we test whether or not our product will withstand those types of environments. Also, when you’re transporting your product throughout different regions of the United States, you can get all four seasons in about two to three days. For example in the winter season, in the north, they can have snow, whereas here in the south we can have 50-degree weather. That variation in climate conditions means that we have to verify and make sure that our products can withstand those significant changes within our climate.
There’s a lot of testing, evaluation, and validation that goes into the products that we are responsible for.
Q: You’re interfacing with a lot of different groups there on a day-to-day basis. How would you describe the people you work with in Newberry?
I would say “powerful.” My team is powerful.
As I mentioned, Newberry is a very small town. There are not a whole lot of people here. The majority of South Carolina jobs are in manufacturing throughout the state, from automotive to home appliances now. In this small area of South Carolina, there aren’t that many companies that can provide what Samsung has provided. To have a company as big as Samsung in this local area is very empowering for people here in Newberry. To see that our washing machine says “Assembled in the USA” brings out pride in us. We built that.
To have a company as big as Samsung in this local area is very empowering for people here in Newberry. To see that our washing machine says ‘Assembled in the USA’ brings out pride in us. We built that.
It’s also very interesting to see how many different backgrounds that our employees have, the different places and work environments that they come from, and then to see them come together and do this.
We’ve only been in operation for almost four years now. We’re getting ready to start our fifth year…
I’m just glad to say that I get to work with every single one of them.
Q: Special people.
Yes. They are. You wouldn’t believe the different levels of knowledge that the people have here.
For instance, you may be talking with a worker on the assembly line. If you get to know their background, you’d be amazed at what they’ve done, what areas they’ve worked in, and the amount of knowledge that they have.
This team is so dedicated, professional, and driven.
Q: Thanks so much for chatting with us, David. Last question – What are you all up to in Newberry when you’re not on the production line? Any time out in nature?
Oh yeah – many people in Newberry enjoy fishing on the lake and ponds, camping, riding four-wheelers, horseback riding… pretty much anything outdoors, we have it around here. It’s a great place to call home. •
* Samsung’s “OptiWash” feature is available only on new 8800 Series Smart Dial front load washers and dryers.