Fisher & Paykel started in New Zealand when Olive Paykel asked her husband to import a new appliance - a refrigerator -that she had seen in the American Ladies' Home Journal. With the success of the Crosley refrigerators, washing machines made by Kelvinator quickly followed. Based on importing appliances from the United States, the company - now run by Olive's son Maurice Paykel and their son-in-law Woolf Fisher - grew quickly until the New Zealand government banned imports of manufactured products due to the currency being in such short supply in 1938.
Fisher & Paykel responded by deciding to change their entire approach. The government would still allow parts to be imported, so Woolf and Maurice decided to set up a factory and start assembling appliances under licence to companies such as Kelvinator.
While this was successful, by making appliances under licence, the economies of scale Fisher & Paykel could generate were limited, so finding a way to create a point of difference became essential.
The answer lay in technology. By developing plastic liners and insulation using polyurethane foam refrigerators we were the first in the world to commercialise this technology.
Around the same time, in 1955, Fisher and Paykel acquired Dunedin cooking range manufacturer H. E. Shacklock Ltd, which dominated the New Zealand domestic appliance market through this era of Government protectionism. With a history in manufacturing cooking ranges since 1873, this heritage is still shaping Fisher & Paykel's contemporary approach to cooking.
Another major breakthrough in technology came in the late 1960's when the Company saw the need to find a way of producing short runs of various models through common manufacturing machinery. Learning to control flexible machinery lines during this phase had started to create another major advantage that was to come in the future. Flexible machinery brought with it the notion of manufacturing cabinets using prepainted steel. In tandem with the Japanese steel mills appliance grade pre-painted steel was developed that enabled coiled steel to be processed through lines of machinery that could notch and pierce various sizes and shapes. The first product to incorporate this technology was the compact dryer - a ground-up design conceived by our own engineers.
Having learned about electronic drive systems through our flexible manufacturing equipment, we applied the knowledge to driving appliances. The world's first appliance using Brushless Direct Current Motors was introduced in the 1980s. This design later gave way to the development of the Smart Drive™ clothes washer.
Other significant innovations like the DishDrawer™ dishwasher and world-first ActiveSmart™ refrigeration technology further set Fisher & Paykel apart as a design-led appliance manufacturer.
More recently, this culture of curiosity and creativity has seen the development of CoolDrawer™, a multi-temperature drawer-based fridge and CookSurface™ where retractable trivets allow a flat ceramic glass surface ensuring easy cleaning. Both of these products have won multiple design and innovation awards, alongside many other products like our Kitchen Companion Range and DishDrawers™.
In 2010, Fisher & Paykel underwent a major brand refresh, rethinking the focus, look and culture of the company. The commitment to research into how people cook, how they use their kitchens, and how the role and look of the kitchen is changing, led the company to creating a philosophy around The Social Kitchen.
'The Social Kitchen' sums up Fisher & Paykel's design philosophy. The kitchen is about people. And when you think about people - their habits, the ways they live and interact - you get a richness of experience that traditional kitchen planning and appliances often ignore. The Social Kitchen is where food meets design to create food experiences that flip assumptions and start new conversations. In 2011, Fisher & Paykel launched the first of a series of events that embraced the concept of the Social Kitchen.