Create a free account to continue

Controlling The Flow

Geographically-favorable processes, as well as implementation of barcoding and Kanban stragies, have elevated Endress+Hauser's U.S. production.

This article first appeared in the October 2011 issue of Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation.

Catch-phrases, buzzwords, hot topics. They run the risk of becoming cliché until one finds the true definition of such a term staring them in the face. That's been the case with the impact of globalization on Endress+Hauser's Greenwood, IN campus.

Endress+Hauser is one of the industry's leading suppliers of instrumentation products, with applications that include temperature, pressure, level, flow, analytical, and more. Specifically in North and South America, the company has seen a significant increase in the demand for their offerings. Sales of temperature instruments in North America alone have increased by 40 percent this year.

In response to this growth, the company added a 12,000 square foot manufacturing facility specifically focused on temperature sensors, thermowells, transmitters, and other instrumentation to their already extensive Greenwood campus. Renovation and construction was complete last November, with production beginning in January. According to Patrick McGlothlen, who is responsible for marketing, 85-90 percent of all instruments ordered from Endress+Hauser in the U.S. are manufactured at the Greenwood campus. A 5-year plan is also in place for potential expansion.

Customer Focus

All new Endress+Hauser manufacturing investments start with the needs of the customer in mind, and the Swiss family-owned company takes pride in the highest quality manufacturing. In the case of temperature manufacturing, optimizing production speed and order handling efficiency was key since customers may view temperature instruments as a commodity. According to McGlothlen, the result is production that is 60 percent quicker due to a new set of protocols crafted to optimize quality, speed, and efficiency for the Americas market. "Our customers have plenty of options in filling their orders, so we have to set ourselves apart with strategies that focus on time-to-market availability and performance accuracy," he adds.

Combining the need to localize the process while ensuring Endress+Hauser standards were maintained, McGlothlen and his team implemented a one-piece workflow methodology dependent upon a couple of key processes.

Endress+Hauser added a 12,000 square foot facility to its  Greenwood Campus, specifically focused on temperature  sensors, thermowells, transmitters, and more.

The Right Fit

"Accuracy is one of the ways we at Endress+Hauser look to set ourselves apart," explains McGlothlen. "That's why we've implemented a couple of unique production elements. One of them is the use of pull-turning in machining the thermowell production of our temperature instruments."

So instead of single point turning by driving the cutting tool forward, the pull-turn approach, which is most commonly used in rifle barrel production, simultaneously pulls and turns a metal bar towards the cutting tool. This helps eliminate extra production steps while ensuring finer detail and precision during assembly.

"We also have 100 percent traceability on all components," states McGlothlen. From the time raw materials enter the facility they are barcode-controlled, so that no order will ever get to the testing area unless it is comprised of every necessary component.

"This simply removes any chance of missing pieces or other errors, as each instrument won't register for packaging unless everything (via their barcode) is entered into the system," McGlothlen says. "All the parts are serialized and scanned during assembly which means we know how each piece in each order is tracking." This accountability not only ensures accurate delivery but aids in replenishment and inventory management strategies that help control costs and regulate supply with demand.

Integrated within the barcoding system is Endress+Hauser's MRP (manufacturing resource planning) platform from SAP that takes information from sales orders in automating inventory controls, delivery timetables, and even production schedules for specific machines. All of this information allows the Greenwood facility to ensure they have the proper inventory in meeting numerous demands from customers with varying needs from Alaska to Argentina.

"Temperature is such a variable," offers McGlothlen. "It's simple to do, but quality assurance and testing to ensure performance and compliance with so many regulations means adherence to those strict standards needs to be consistently repeatable. Having a system like this that couples MRP with sales and inventory data means everything is traceable and we can be confident that no standard is being compromised. We know we'll never be delayed on any order due to controllable circumstances.

"Our Kanban strategies are obviously tied into the data from the SAP system as well," continues McGlothlen. Replenishment timetables are based off ordering information and other projections so that delays are avoided. "All factors are automatically taken into consideration to ensure re-orders are always met, but we also have some built-in flexibility that allows us to adjust Kanbans as necessary," states McGlothlen.

These embedded and integrated technologies allow the Greenwood facility to implement continuous improvement strategies that feed off Lean inventory practices without raising concerns about quantities running low if larger orders arise or pricing on materials fluctuates.

This is supported by features within the system that allow for inserting special orders. What's unique is that in these instances, the Kanbans are not changed, but recognized as an entirely new inventory fulfillment in order to keep the factors impacting workflow consistent. "Human instinct has to be a part of the system to ensure no shortage of critical components," adds McGlothlen, "and this also helps control costs."

It would seem the right mix of an international company's resources and a local understanding of the approach provides more than just clarification of this month's trend or buzz-word. It offers insight on how to keep customers happy and manufacturers growing, regardless of where they're located.