Jam-Packed Yesterday...ABB Instrumentation and Siemens E&A together...

...well, sort of. Together sequentially, anyway.

Dave Fisher and I made a flying visit to ABB Instrumentation in Warminster, and to Siemens E&A in Spring House, PA yesterday. The last time I was in the Warminster plant, it said Fischer & Porter on the door, and Kermit Fischer's ashes were still in the urn in the wall. That was a while ago. And while it is the same diggs, there are huge changes. Gone are the glass plant and the large mag meter test and calibration rig. Because ABB has those in England and Germany, they don't need to have them here. In their place is a no-kidding world class Six Sigma manufacturing plant, complete with Kaizen teams, working together to produce field instruments.364 pressure transmitter 720 When I arrived, they had me, just for grins, fill out an order form for one of their new 364 Series Differential Pressure Transducers. So, again just for grins, I filled it out tough. I asked for material certs, combined FM, CSA and ATEX Class 1 Zone 0 certification, gave it a tight range, asked for special calibrations, and stuff that I was certain would give their production department the willies. I figured that if they were going to play with me, I'd play along. So, we're walking through this world class factory that is masquerading as a more than 50 year old building in Warminster PA, and the pressure transmitter cell leader comes up and hands me a 364. It has been 53 minutes since I handed them the order form. "I am really ticked," he said. "My computer locked up for over 11 minutes, and I couldn't get the cal data to print out correctly for you. Otherwise it would have been here sooner." They don't make anything in batches anymore. They make everything to order in single piece quantity lots, just-in-time. The unit had everything I asked for, except for material certs. It seems that even though I tried vainly in the early heritage_logos_jul2005.jpg1990s to get F&P (then) to buy a PMI XRF analyzer from me when I was working for the then TN Technologies (now Thermo Fisher Scientific) they still haven't got one. But they had done every other little wrinkle I asked for...every single one. And they had done it without a huge line or cell upset. They just inserted the order in the chain and let the process work. This is not your father's F&P. Or Bailey, or TBI, or Taylor, or Sensycon, or K-Flow or Hartmann & Braun. What is even more amazing is that this is a union plant. The United Auto Workers organized F&P in the old days, and the plant continues to be a UAW plant. To see workers in charge of their own work, and as emotionally invested in it as the poor guy with the locked up computer is refreshing and says a great deal about the state of the automation manufacturers. And it says that ABB practices what it preaches. They tout their System 800xA as a manufacturing platform for process and (some) discrete industries...and they are practicing real time performance management at home, too, where it counts.

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