The consolidation of the Erie control line into one plant in northern Illinois has started a new chapter for Invensys

By Brian A. Klems

Grand openings are exciting. Anniversaries are bundles of fun. But a rebirth can be more spectacular than both--just ask the people at Invensys. Earlier this year, Invensys celebrated the grand re-opening of its manufacturing plant in Loves Park, IL, with what they called the "rebirth" of Erie, the company's temperate control line.

Erie products have been around for more than 55 years, but over the course of that half a century its manufacturing and production plants spread throughout the country from Illinois to Wisconsin to California. In fact, one of Erie's largest plants was located in Mexicali, Mexico.

In August, Invensys consolidated its Erie manufacturing plants to a 500,000-sq.-ft. facility in Loves Park--a plant that also houses Invensys companies Invensys Building Systems, Barber-Colman Industrial Instruments and Barber-Colman DYNA products. The move went even better than management expected.

"It's been a phenomena," said Bill Canady, director of customer and product development/components. "The move was planned and executed very well. It's great to see people coming together."

The move was part of Invensys plan to improve the already respected Erie name. Along with the consolidation, Invensys invested more money in the advertising and development of the brand, creating more awareness of Erie. There investment paid off even more than they expected.

"We're running about 10 times ahead of where we expected to be," commented Canady. The company's customer care center, which employees about 40 workers, handled roughly 15,000 calls and more than 30,000 orders each month. Those numbers have skyrocketed. "We've had to hire on people, creating some more job opportunities for the community. We're now running three shifts instead of one," he said.

Yet there has been a downside to the move. According to Canady, the jump in orders has been great for business but tough to manage with overhead increasing so rapidly. "We didn't plan for such big orders, so the only downside is, I guess you can say, that we're suffering by our own success," he said. He wasn't complaining, though. "I'm extremely happy at how successful we've been."

Canady also mentioned that Erie plans on introducing two new products by the end of the year to continue its success.

Susan Keefer, product managing specialist for Erie, said the company is working on two improved versions of current actuators--a high close-off valve (AH) and a general close-off valve (AG).

"The new actuators fit into the old part places," said Keefer. Erie surveyed some focus groups to dictate the needed improvements. "The AG will have a narrower profile for under baseboard applications because users wanted something a bit thinner and easier to install," said Keefer. "The AH will also be slimmed down to occupy less space. Both position valve body actuators will snap onto valve bodies and will work with the old valve bodies." The actuators are tentatively scheduled to be released in December.

Erie, which is considered a division of Invensys, provides products for commercial, industrial and residential buildings. Erie's familiar brands are used in residential hydronic temperate control applications.

Brian Klems is associate editor for PME's sister publication, Supply House Times.