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AME: Best Practices

Best Practices Plants: Invensys-Foxboro

By Karen Myhaver, MassMEP

Invensys- Foxboro is a world-leading supplier of automation systems, intelligent field instrumentation, and advanced software applications, as well as comprehensive engineering, maintenance, and training for the process control industry. They are a supplier to many industries including: chemicals, oil and gas, pulp and paper, food, pharmaceuticals, mining and metals, electric utilities, and water and waste treatment. Foxboro automation systems and instruments help ensure the quality of products we come in contact with on a daily basis, like reformulated gasoline which reduces air pollution, nutrient rich breakfast cereals, recycled materials, and medications.

The company has two plants in Foxboro, Massachusetts which employ about 500 people. They also have 11 other facilities around the world.

Invensys-Foxboro was founded in 1908 and has always been known as a leader in process control. In 1990, the Foxboro plants were acquired by Siebe plc of the UK and in 1999 Siebe and British Tire and Rubber, another British engineering firm, merged to form Invensys plc. Today, Invensys can offer complete solutions for your process automation needs using the Foxboro, Avantis, Simsci-Esscor, Triconex, Wonderware, APV, and Eurotherm brands.

Through the years Foxboro has developed many innovations and "firsts" in the industry like the first Digital Coriolis Flowmeter and the first redundant Switched Ethernet process control system backbone. A visit to their website will show an impressive and more comprehensive list of all the new technology Invensys has brought to light over the years.

However, it is not just the mechanisms and the software that makes this company excel. A dedicated engineering and support staff continue to set them above others in the industry as well.

Along with recognizing the contribution of its design and customer service people, Foxboro also owes a tremendous amount of its successes to the company’s ability to set goals. Currently, their company vision is "One by Six" with the desire that they will be number one in their market by this year, 2006.

Lean Transformation
Invensys began their Lean transformation nearly six years ago. Originally, much of their training focused on a small group of people. In the last 18 months and with a financial boost from a Workforce Training Grant and training assistance from the Massachusetts MEP, Invensys has focused on training all their employees in the basic lean principals. Everyone needs to be clear about what is going on in order for visions to become realities.

This high mix, low volume manufacturer has continued their lean transformation through a phase they are now calling "Velocity Manufacturing" which focuses on improving service delivery to their customers. The "Out the Door in 24," policy was something else they implemented to focus on reducing their shipping time to within 24 hours. The successful process has increased their business by 30%. This also has allowed them to reduce work in process inventory significantly as well. However, in order to have dramatic impacts like this, several other lean concepts had to be put into practice around the facility.

Organized Workplace
First of all, Invensys is an organized workplace. People have what they need, where they need it, when they need it. There is no waste or clutter. Materials, tools, and work areas are clearly marked and organized. Kanban systems are in use here. Things are built according to the PULL of the customer. They do not build more than they need. They have worked to establish a good supply chain with their vendors so that materials arrive when they are needed.

Invensys has created work cells on the shop floor where related processes are grouped together in a "cell" so the product can be passed from one step to the next, with minimal travel. The cells are constantly being updated and "tweaked." A problem will be detected, perhaps during a value stream mapping exercise, a Kaizen is done to determine how to fix the problem, and then the solution is applied within the cell. For example, this might mean moving a process from one area to the next or making additional tools available within that cell.

Cellular manufacturing has worked so well for Invensys-Foxboro that they are able to ship product to customers within their 24 hour goal and with a 99.5% on-time delivery rate. The quality has not been compromised and they are running at an impressive 25 inventory turns.

Day to Day Responsibility
Total Productive Maintenance plays a big role in the success of the work cells and in this "velocity manufacturing phase." Instead of waiting until machines break, Invensys sees the value in making the operators more responsible for the day-to-day "diagnosis" of the machines and then the maintenance staff does regularly scheduled cleaning and repairs to keep things in their best shape and avoid costly break downs.

Even with several very beneficial lean improvements in place and years of cutting edge product development under their belt, Invensys-Foxboro continues to strive for the optimum layout to help ensure their continued success and the achievement of their vision.

"One by Six"? Very possible!


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