Original Date: 07/09/2007
Revision Date: / /
The Inpro/Seal Company is the nation’s leading manufacturer of bearing isolators that provide permanent bearing protection to rotating equipment. Inpro/Seal Company’s bearing isolators protect the bearings of rotating equipment from premature failure by retaining lubricant and excluding contaminants. They are non-contact and non-wearing, giving them an essential infinite life. Many bearing isolators have been used for more than 20 years versus traditional lip contact seals that rarely last more than 3,000 hours. Inpro/Seal’s bearing isolators are standard components on scores of heavy-duty industrial rotating equipment in the U.S. and abroad, with more than 400,000 bearing isolators produced annually and 2.5 million installed to date. The BMP Survey was conducted at the Inpro/Seal Company headquarters in Rock Island, Illinois, the week of July 9, 2007.
The Inpro/Seal Company is home to 79 employees at its 90,000-square-foot facility in Rock Island, Illinois, one of the four small towns that comprise the Quad Cities of Rock Island, Illinois; Moline, Illinois; Davenport, Iowa; and Bettendorf, Iowa, bordering the Mississippi River in northwest Illinois and southeast Iowa. The company also employs 22 regional managers who operate from various locations in the U.S. and around the world. All regional managers are responsible for recruiting and managing their own distributor network. There are currently more than 125 Inpro/Seal distributors and independent representatives operating within the distribution network.
Inpro/Seal was first established in 1965 as Inpro, Inc., a Worthington and Viking Pump distributor. At that time President and CEO David Orlowski was fully aware that the sealing capabilities of rubber lip seals were grossly inadequate. In 1976 Orlowski began experimenting with labyrinth seals when an Iowa-based company called seeking an answer to the extensive water contamination plaguing its pump bearings. Inpro, Inc., retrofitted its pumps with newly developed Inpro/Seal bearing isolators, which lasted for 20 years of continual (24/7) service and were only removed because the pumps they protected had worn out.
Since its 1965 inception, Inpro/Seal has dedicated itself to continuous improvement and refinement of its products and practices. The company’s Rock Island, Illinois, facility houses a Research and Experimentation Laboratory where proposed new designs or suggestions for improvement may be tested and measured against previous or present designs. Varied types of test equipment and techniques are developed to allow isolators to be evaluated with different lubrication methods, speeds, shaft conditions, and other operational factors. Isolators may be tested for their ability to retain lubrication, exclude contamination, or both. Inpro/Seal also evaluates competitor products to keep abreast of developments throughout the industry.
The company’s Experimental Cell supports Inpro/Seal’s continuous process and product improvement. New methods and suggestions are first tried on a dedicated manufacturing cell to work out any potential problems, with several different employees and operators transferred into the cell to test differing levels of experience and expertise under more controlled conditions. Task time may then be compared and taken into consideration when assigning teams to various production centers or when calculating takt time.
Inpro/Seal maintains more than 60,000 specific designs of bearing isolators and adds more every day.
With sales, manufacturing, and engineering located at the company’s headquarters, custom designs can be quickly generated by experienced engineers who are able to communicate with one another when new designs are being created. This close proximity also affords manufacturing advanced notice of projects in the design phase so that necessary manufacturing resources are allocated ahead of time. Production managers have the authorization to reassign jobs from one manufacturing cell to another and continuously adjust production to reflect immediate needs. This real-time flexibility is critical because more than 30% of Inpro/Seals orders are manufactured and shipped to waiting customers the same they are received.
Inpro/Seal’s quick turnaround time is one of its hallmarks. The lack of dimensional standards for bearing seals across a wide range of rotating equipment has prompted engineer-to-order capability in which engineering accepts requests for quotes directly from customers, sales, or distribution and designs customer solutions – often within one hour. CNC code is generated within a few minutes and an isolator can then be manufactured from raw material on- hand and shipped without delay. Inpro/Seal does not charge for this service. Because bearing isolators are often retrofitted to industrial equipment during unplanned downtime or emergency rebuilds, quick turnaround is critical.
The Inpro/Seal Conveyor Roller Bearing Isolator has earned national recognition from the readers of Plant Engineering magazine after being nominated as a finalist for the 2006 "Product of the Year" award. The company’s Conveyor Roller Seal has also been recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration for its increased safety and reliability benefits in mining.
Inpro/Seal’s commitment to customer satisfaction, as evidenced by its “Unconditional Satisfaction Guarantee” and policy of "Same-Day Shipments," ensures that the company will continue to meet the considerable demand for permanent, reliable, and timely bearing protection for industries worldwide. The company’s annual sales of $30 million are a testimony to its superior products and its ongoing commitment to continuous improvement and customer satisfaction.
The BMP Survey Team congratulates the Inpro/Seal Company for winning the 2007 Best Manufacturing Practices Award for Excellence and considers the following practices in this report to be among the best in industry and government.
TABLE OF ACRONYMS
The following acronyms were used in this report:
|IEC|| ||International Electrotechnical Commission|
|IP Code|| ||International Protection Code|
|OEM|| ||Original Equipment Manufacturer|
|R&E|| ||Research & Experimentation|
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