Pratt and Whitney: Soaring into the future
PE: On the other hand, where do you have the most room for improvement? What’s the plan for improvement?
Sylvestro: I believe that there is always room for improvement as we strive to deliver the perfect quality that earns customer loyalty. We continue to look for opportunities to drive down cost as we evolve our business products and processes for the increase in volume that we will see in the next five years.
We are increasing our capacity through product rationalization, process optimization, increasing automation, footprint optimization, and limited footprint expansion. We are improving our capability by retooling our equipment and inserting advanced manufacturing technologies into our existing processes and products.
The benefits are increased speed, efficiency, and flow, leading to reduced costs for our customers.
PE: You have both military and commercial customers. What are the manufacturing challenges—and the opportunities—with two such different customers?
Sylvestro: Pratt & Whitney makes the most technologically advanced fighter engines in the world for military customers around the globe. We partner with our supply base to ensure capacity, quality, and on-time delivery; therefore, P&W suppliers have invested in our military programs. Investments include purchase of new machines and new equipment, hiring/training of additional employees, and purchase or expansion to increase manufacturing space.
It is critical to achieve stability in the F-35 program, as uncertainty/instability inhibits decisions and can lead to a lack of investment in capital, inhibited hiring, etc. We need to invest in capacity, and so do our suppliers. With all of the uncertainty (sequestration, etc.), some suppliers are hesitant to cut that second check and make that next investment. Only 14% of our suppliers are Fortune 1000 companies; many of our suppliers are smaller companies that would be adversely impacted by sequestration.
On the commercial side, our success speaks volumes: our PurePower Geared Turbofan engine family has more than 4,500 orders that include announced and unannounced firm orders, plus options. The economy can drive decisions in the commercial spares market—this can change our factory load significantly.
Having a balanced product portfolio of both commercial and military products benefits us; if one sector is down, the other may be up, and vice versa.
PE: R&D obviously is an enormous part of your operation. How do your design and manufacturing teams interact? What is the outcome of that relationship?
Sylvestro: Our engineering and manufacturing teams partner closely throughout the design, production, and final assembly process to produce high-quality products that delight our customers.
Our talented engineers design our products for producability and quality. The two organizations work closely together throughout the various phases of a product’s lifecycle. We know this is a key component to our success and continue to look for more ways to integrate our design and manufacturing teams.
PE: Finding and developing the next generation of workers for your plant is a unique challenge. How do you recruit and develop workers to meet the needs of a facility with such specific needs for skilled workers who must be entrusted with sensitive work?
Sylvestro: Pratt & Whitney is a great place to work, so we get to recruit and retain top talent. We have a multi-pronged approach to ensuring a diverse pool of skilled employees; while this list is not all-inclusive, here are just a few of the ways we build a world-class workforce:
- Pratt & Whitney collaborates with several top-tier universities, including the University of Connecticut, Penn State, MIT, and Georgia Tech.
- Pratt & Whitney has sponsored the INROADS internship programs since 1989. The mission of INROADS is to develop and place talented minority youth in business and industry, and prepare them for corporate and community leadership.
- We also have the UTC Operations Leadership Program, an opportunity for recent college graduates to complete rotations in key areas of operations and supply chain that will prepare them to be future leaders in our industry.
- A well-educated workforce is critical for global business growth, and makes us stronger and more competitive. Our Employee Scholar Program is a comprehensive, company-sponsored employee education program that helps us attract and retain a motivated and engaged workforce.
- New graduates in business and engineering disciplines can choose from a variety of entry-level job opportunities or rotational Leadership Programs at UTC. Meanwhile, undergraduate students can launch their careers with internships and co-ops.
PE: Now that the recession is behind us, what are the lessons you learned about your operations, your workers, and manufacturing?
Sylvestro: While the recession may technically be over, pressures remain. We are under pressure to be the best at what we do, in order to meet business obligations while managing very tight budgets. Our customers have a choice, so this leads to extremely high expectations for quality, delivery, and cost.
While our long-term outlook is very bright, we do have some near-term challenges, including a drop in demand for commercial and military spares, a declining installed base for our legacy programs, and striking a cost/profit balance for the significant investments we are making in technology for our new engine programs.
One thing I have come to recognize from the recession is how important it is that we have a strong leadership team that is willing to make tough decisions and a talented global workforce with the agility to adjust quickly while maintaining perfect quality. Flexibility is key; it allows us to shift resources to areas of the business that need them most.
I have every confidence we will be successful in positioning Pratt & Whitney for the long term and ensuring a strong future for the company, our employees, customers, and shareowners.
- See more stories on the manufacturing revival below.
Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.