Invensys Develops a Unique Partnership

May 22, 2008
During regular Wednesday walk-throughs, Norm Lecuyer (left) reviews results of spot drilling tests with lead man Bruce Veras (center) and Ingersoll engineer David Fazzina (right). New Ingersoll indexable spot drill sped up the operation by ...
During regular Wednesday walk-throughs, Norm Lecuyer (left) reviews results of spot drilling tests with lead man Bruce Veras (center) and Ingersoll engineer David Fazzina (right). New Ingersoll indexable spot drill sped up the operation by 15 percent while increasing tool life five-fold. ISP-Ingersoll partners have agreed to raise machining rates gradually, so the folks on the floor could trust the improvements.

“Being a manufacturer of high-tech products just puts us on the starting line in the race for global competitiveness. To stay in the race, we must update manufacturing and retooling practices very aggressively – again and again, always challenging the status quo.”

So says Don Guilmain, Machine Shop Manager at Invensys Process Systems (formerly Foxboro Controls) manufacturing center, Foxboro, Mass. The 87-person machine shop runs 24/7 to produce its well-known line of Foxboro brand industrial measurement and instrumentation products. The company’s high-end product line is exactly the type of products that experts say can be manufactured more competitively here than abroad.

Fostering Lean Culture Change, from the Bottom Up

Invensys Process Systems realized that, to sustain its manufacturing operation in a global marketplace, it needed to change its culture to focus on valued innovation, and continuous improvement, and it needed to make those changes take root on its shop floor.

One of the key factors in achieving its goals is a unique partnership with Ingersoll Cutting Tools that is expected to save Invensys Process Systems-Foxboro $400,000 a year in 2008, and more in the years beyond.

The initiative was part of a company-wide commitment driven by John Biagioni, the shop‘s general manager of manufacturing. Biagioni gave his Lean Steering Committee three guiding principles as the basis for continuous improvement efforts:

Focus on the customer. To ensure that what is done every day provides value to the customer.

Start now. So that any action — no matter how small — is a positive statement toward change. Biagioni said that is the true definition of continuous improvement.

And, take pride in our factory. The Foxboro facility is 100 years old next year; and the company’s goal is to make it a showplace to convert customers, train its future workforce and drive its profitability.

Retooling Promises Fastest Return
The company found that many of its subcontractors were more up to date than the it was, and that if it simply adopted some of their practices, it would be ahead.

This input arose directly from the shop floor as operators cautiously but willingly bought into the effort.

One reason for their support was that management had encouraged operators and lead men to attend trade shows and vendor seminars and to visit subcontractors.

With a new Ingersoll Power Feed+ mill (center), Invensys Process Systems rough-mills 10 stainless steel process covers (on left) in the time it used to take to complete just one (single part on right). Finish milling, with a new Ingersoll Hi-Pos Deka milling cutter, runs twice as fast.
Conversion to Ingersoll indexable spot drills (left) has cut costs for that operation by 94 percent.

The main point of their feedback was that, short of a massive capital investment, retooling with the latest technologies would be the fastest way to cut manufacturing costs. Additional leading-edge capital equipment also would help, but they agreed that retooling should come first because the potential payoff would be immediate – and huge.

Unique Structured Partnership with Ingersoll
As the improvement effort gained momentum, Don Guilmain invited some of the leading tooling suppliers to join him as an integrated partner, and he offered an unusual deal.

“For our part, we’d guarantee a free hand to try out any promising new tool on any machine at any time, so long as it was a ‘plug and play’ replacement requiring no programming,” he said.

In exchange, the suppliers had to commit to providing at least one engineer and a sales rep to walk our floor every Wednesday morning, along with Invensys Process Systems lead men Joe Nunes and Richard Curtis, to make specific suggestions, he added.

Ingersoll stepped up and accepted the offer. In fact, Ingersoll committed a threeman team.

Every week ever since, Jim Hawks and David Fazzina, Ingersoll sales engineers, and Greg Garbick of tooling distributor Chandler & Farquhar walk the floor with Nunes and Curtis.

At the end of each session, the group meets with Guilmain to go over the bottlenecks they’ve identified and to discuss possible remedies. The issues are prioritized and action plans are developed, and, usually, these sessions include planning direct comparison tests of new versus existing tooling and practices.

The first retooling, implemented in October, produced a much more profound benefit than anticipated.

The application seemed simple enough: rough milling two ends of a process cover about the size of a greeting card.

Invensys Process Systems goes through about 75,000 of the parts each year in a family of sizes. They are made primarily of stainless steel but some are made of corrosion resistant superalloys.

The shop was making about 5,000 of them in-house at the time, and subbing out the rest for lack of capacity.

By retooling, Invensys Process Systems freed enough machine time to bring another 15,000 pieces per year back in house, saving about $200,000 a year in related costs.

10-to-1 Faster Feed
The Ingersoll team suggested the shop use an Ingersoll Power Feed+ mill for the job, to speed up the feed rate from 20 IPM, the standard for decades.

With the new cutter and some minor adjustments, the team gradually increased the feed rate tenfold to 200 IPM.

Even at that higher rate, the inserts lasted three times longer than the ones they replaced.

An Ingersoll Power Feed+ mill completes rough milling operation on stainless steel process covers ten times faster than before, enabling Invensys Process Systems to bring work back in-house.

“It took a while for our folks on the floor to feel comfortable with that drastic an increase. “They were concerned that it would damage the machine, and we had no back-up. That’s why the ramp-up was done gradually,” Guilmain said.

This switch reduced machining cost for the roughing operation by 90 percent. Moreover, the operation is so stable that Invensys runs it unattended on the third shift.

Bringing it Back
One of the most significant improvements the shop made was regaining the additional capacity to bring another 15,000 pieces per year back in-house.

“We were paying $16 per piece on the outside, and now we make them ourselves for $2,” Guilmain said.

Not surprisingly, Invensys plans to bring the balance of the job in-house as other re-toolings free additional machine time.

In fact, they’ve already started by converting the cover’s finish milling operation to an Ingersoll Hi-Pos Deka milling cutter that enables increasing the feed rate from 12 IPM to 26 IPM.

Invensys runs the same Ingersoll cutter to rough-mill its occasional, corrosion-resistant-superalloy covers that are required for corrosive environments.

The cutting rates for such hard metals naturally are lower. Nevertheless, operators doubled the feed rate to 4.5 IPM, from 2 IPM. Even so, insert life increased to 72 parts per edge from 48.

The uptick in milling rate stems from the freer cutting and chipbreaking geometry of the Ingersoll inserts, Jim Hawks, the Ingersoll engineer, said.

“With high positive rake inserts, the cutting action is more cleaving than scraping, which reduces cutting forces, and the chip-breakers drive the chips away to avoid overheating and re-cutting,” Hawks said.

Another major cost saver has been the conversion in spot drilling from a HSS drill to a segmented 90-degree spot drill.

“Here, we’re dealing with a simple drop-in replacement on an unglamorous operation that’s required on virtually every part in the shop,” Guilmain said.

On the first application, a vortex bonnet, there was a 15 percent faster improvement in process time. Tool life also rose from 200 pieces per grind to 1000 pieces per insert. That ultimately led to a 94 percent saving for the operation.

“The old solid drill cost $42, with and regrinds costing $14. Now, the insert costs only about $12 and seems to run forever,” Guilmain said.

First Things First
Invensys Process Systems’ overall strategy has been to attack the “low hanging fruit” -- the surefire jobs that involve nothing more than drop-in tool replacements. That approach ensures that new tooling ideas generated on the floor are tested out and promise a meaningful cost reduction.

“We’re taking it slowly to build confidence at all levels – not only in a specific new tool or machine setting but also in the process of change and continuous improvement itself,” Guilmain said.

To date, four re-toolings have been adopted as practice, and another four are in various stages of testing, optimization and validation.

The focus has remained on milling and drilling with no reprogramming required.

“As of today, the retooling effort is gaining us about $8,000 a week in cost avoidance. This includes speeding up our own operations, then immediately leveraging the ensuing capacity gains to bring more work inhouse,” Guilmain said.

Exporting Great Ideas

Recently, Biagioni and his team began exporting their best ideas to sister plants in Stuttgart, Germany and Soultz, France.

By coincidence, the company’s Worldwide Manufacturing Council, which meets quarterly to exchange ideas, happened to be meeting at the Foxboro site on a Wednesday, the regular Ingersoll visiting day. The Ingersoll-Invensys Process Systems partnership became the main topic of the day.

After reviewing the gains at Foxboro, the Soultz facility’s general manager of manufacturing took similar actions to improve his processes.

In the upcoming months, the Invensys Process Systems Foxboro/ Ingersoll team plans to incorporate machine reprogramming and turning operations into the already successful effort.

This article was prepared by Ingersoll Cutting Tools, 845 South Lyford Road, Rockford, Ill. (, telephone 815-387-6600. • Edited by Bruce Vernyi, Editor-in-Chief

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