Pratt and Whitney: Soaring into the future

Pratt and Whitney's jet engine manufacturing plant balances speed and flexibility

08/07/2013


Joe Sylvestro is the vice president for manufacturing operations for Pratt and Whitney. Courtesy: Pratt and WhitneyAs U.S. manufacturing has powered the global economic resurgence in recent years, Pratt & Whitney has powered aviation. The company boasts of having its jet engines in 25% of the world’s commercial aviation fleet. It is also a global force in military aviation, with its engines in 29 countries around the world. The company, founded by Frederick Rentschler in 1925, is a division of United Technologies Corp., and has 33,000 employees and $14 billion in worldwide revenues.

Pratt & Whitney has a manufacturing operation built around uncompromising quality in products that must perform at all times. Joe Sylvestro is the person charged with leading that effort. Sylvestro is vice president of manufacturing operations for Pratt & Whitney. In that role, he is responsible for quality, safety, and cost management Pratt & Whitney’s manufacturing operations are in Maine; New York; Pennsylvania; Georgia; and Chengdu, China; its home plant is in Middletown, Conn.

Plant Engineering content manager Bob Vavra discussed the strategies and success of Pratt & Whitney’s manufacturing process with Sylvestro, as well as the challenges in a far-flung and evolving market.

Plant Engineering: How do you measure, manage, and maintain quality in the manufacturing operation?

Sylvestro: Pratt & Whitney is committed to being the world-class provider of dependable engines, propulsion systems, parts, and services that meet customer expectations. Quality, compliance to requirements, and continuous improvement are keys in everything we do.

The United Technologies Corp. ACE (Achieving Competitive Excellence) operating system is an integral part of the continuous improvement process at P&W. ACE is our proprietary operating system to ensure world-class quality in our products and processes. With its relentless focus on increasing efficiency and reducing waste, ACE is integral to the company's performance model. Facilities worldwide use the operating system to improve quality and customer satisfaction while lowering cost.

We continuously measure and track many aspects of our quality performance and rely heavily on our skilled employees to evaluate their processes to find ways to eliminate waste and continuously improve the business.

PE: There are so many moving parts—product and people—in a facility like this. How do you keep everyone engaged, informed, and on task?

Sylvestro: Pratt & Whitney’s Middletown, Conn., facility is approximately 2 million sq ft. Globally, we are responsible for more than 19 million sq ft of manufacturing, assembly, test, and office space, located in about 22 countries worldwide. We support customers in more than 180 countries.

Our employees continue to tell us that they are interested in staying informed on company news and events, so we continue to evolve our open and honest communications processes and tools to help them do their jobs and stay aligned with company strategy and priorities. Some of the robust tools we use include: quarterly all-hands meetings; toolbox talk meetings (team meetings), and our company intranet, which includes leadership messages and articles on program milestones, industry news, policy enhancements, and employee features from across the globe.

In addition, we use the ACE operating system, which incorporates a set of tools that helps our organization codify processes, identify process improvement opportunities, solve problems, and assist with decision-making. All employees are trained and empowered to implement the standard processes across the company through standard work.

One of the key tenets of ACE is to gather feedback from employees, as well as from internal and external customers, to ensure we are delivering on our commitments and continuously identify areas for improvement.

PE: Why are you optimistic about your own manufacturing operation?

Sylvestro: We just came out of the Paris Airshow, where we announced new orders for more than 1,000 engines, including options. We now have more than 4,500 orders and commitments for our PurePower engine family, including options, from more than 40 customers around the world. This helps us maintain our lead position of more than 50% of Airbus A320neo engine orders. The overall market response to our next generation engine family continues to be very strong.

In addition, we are the only engine manufacturer powering fifth-generation fighters today. Those include the F135 for the F-35 Lightning II—known also as the Joint Strike Fighter—and  the F119 powering the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 Raptor.

In the next five years we are ramping up production significantly, and we will be delivering volumes of engines not seen since the early 1980s, so it’s a very exciting time for us. We are ahead of the curve, and preparing for this volume by transforming our global operations. These next generation engine programs are giving us the opportunity to increase assembly and machining capacity globally, invest in smart technologies, introduce new capabilities, and improve our processes and flow in our factories to be leaner. 

PE: What is the best thing you do in your plant today? What area of your operation are you most proud of?

Sylvestro: State-of-the-art technology and innovation continue to shape our manufacturing processes, and the increased use of advanced manufacturing techniques is something I am particularly excited about in operations. Some of the complex machining processes we have developed in recent years are reducing lead times for certain operations by 40% or more just by using innovative manufacturing techniques, tooling, and programs. It is fantastic to see this happen.

In addition, our use of additive manufacturing enables new manufacturing solutions in terms of design, speed, flexibility, and affordability. For example, we can use additive manufacturing to print complicated hollow parts that weigh less and are less expensive to produce compared to parts made with conventional methods.

Over these past 25 years, we have advanced our experience in additive manufacturing and rapid prototype techniques with various materials including metals.


<< First < Previous Page 1 Page 2 Next > Last >>

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
August 2018
Choosing an automation controller, Lean manufacturing
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me