Mark Devaney reports on Parker Hannifin Instrumentation Connectors Division, the leading manufacturer of the highest-quality instrumentation tube fittings to service multiple industries around the world.
With war pending in the Middle East pressure is mounting to locate and refine oil elsewhere. The Gulf of Mexico is drawing a great deal of attention. There are tremendous reserves in the Gulf but its waters aredeep, requiring drilling, tubing, and perhaps most importantly, pressure fitting solutions that can reach and withstand extremely high-pressure environs. Parker Hannifin Instrumentation Connectors Division (ICD) is at the center of the rush to mine oil from the Gulf of Mexico.
“To meet the demands of the expanding offshore oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico we worked with our customers to develop the Medium Pressure Inverted (MPI™) fitting, a product that can operate in depths between 6,000 to 8,000 feet, which can operate up to 15,000 PSI,” said Chuck Neidhardt, general manager, Parker Hannifin Instrumentation Connectors Division. “The major companies drilling in the Gulf have been very positive about the Performance of the MPI fitting. We1re helping those companies help the United States increase control of its destiny.”
Destiny seems to have played a part in the origin and ongoing success of ICD, based in Huntsville, Ala. The facility was first built to support NASA’s Saturn program in the late 1960s. Once the race to the moon was won, the aerospace division moved to California, but rather than close down the Huntsville plant, Parker Hannifin decided to develop instrumentation fittings for multiple industries. Today, ICD has three manufacturing plants and more than 150 distributor locations worldwide to provide local Inventory and Technical support.
Part of Parker Hannifin
ICD is part of Parker Hannifin, the world’s leading manufacturer of motion and control technologies providing systematic precision engineered solutions for a wide variety of commercial, industrial, mobile, and aerospace markets. Parker Hannifin’s products are vital to virtually everything that moves or requires control including the manufacture and processing of raw materials durable goods, infrastructure development, and all forms or transport.
Parker Hannifin has proven to be essential to the “new economy,” providing the mission-critical technologies for automation, computer production, telecommunications and semi-conductor fabrication. ICD is dedicated to being a global leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of high-quality critical flow components for worldwide process instrumentation, ultra-high purity, medical, and analytical applications. ICD serves three functional areas with specific areas of concentration.
Traditional industrial instrumentation markets include process instrumentation utilized in the following industries: chemical/petrochemical processing, oil and gas exploration and refining, pulp and paper production and power generation.
The highest growth markets currently served are in ultra-high purity applications: semi-conductor process equipment, biomedical processing equipment, and pharmaceutical production equipment. Applications in analytical markets include liquid/gas chromatography.
Unlike some companies that continue to cling to outdated supply-driven production practices, ICD made the decision to go lean. As part of a key initiative package put in place by the company’s CEO, Donald E. Washkewicz, ICD has come up with novel methods to arrive at premier Customer service levels and profitable growth.
Cris Chalmers, appointed Lean Manu- facturing Coordinator, was charged with evangelizing just-in-time manufacturing principles to ICD’s 400-plus employees, no small task in an industry entrenched in the ways of batch-and-queue manufacturing.
Previously it was typical of ICD to set up an assembly line to potentially produce 10,000 pieces, which could tie up a line for up to two weeks. Today, lines change over daily for batches ranging from 200 to as low as 20.
“Large batch processing forces you to make products that you’re not necessarily selling,” said Chalmers. “Now we can be more responsive to our customers without needlessly tying up equipment.”
Still, Chalmers conceded, transitioning to lean required a big cultural change at ICD. There was a lot of training, which included setting up mock lines for training and distributing copies of the best-selling book “Who Moved My Cheese?” that inspires employees to abandon old, unprofitable Modes of thinking and to accept innovation and bold new ideas. “There’s a real can do spirit among our associates here in Huntsville,” said Chalmers, who estimated that ICD is really only in year one of the five-year lean transition. “Already our associates are solving problems that they never before thought about fixing. Our goal is to get 100 percent of our associates working on a lean event. It’s fun to let them go into an area and make it more efficient and improve customer service and productivity while reducing our inventory at the same time.”
Meeting customer demand is one sure way to ensure success, but if your product doesn’t perform success won’t last. Not the case at ICD, where quality is engineered into each product to exacting degrees. According to Neidhardt, ICD’s proprietary ferrule hardening technique allows for an extremely tight grip for fittings in low molecular weight gas applications. Additionally, ICD products are known for their consistency and repeatability.
“Our operators and machinists are well-versed, well-skilled, and well-trained,” said Neidhardt .The company consistently achieves machine tolerances of .001 inch, he explains, adding, “Many of our fittings and valves are re-usable, which is a big selling feature. ICD instrumentation Tube fittings are not for one-time use. Our clients get the same level of dependable performance from our products each time the install ICD fittings and valves.”