Too often in business, as in life, objectives become clouded, and people lose direction. Sometimes a simple, clearly-stated goal is the key to getting everyone in an organization moving in the same direction.
Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC), a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. (UTC), has just such a straightforward objective and, so far, is moving rapidly to reach it. As Amal Girgis, P&WC's CIO, puts it, "Our goal is to become the industry leader in using digital technology to design our engines right through the lifecycle of the product."
While moving to a digital design process is a clear objective, it is not a simple task. P&WC (Longueuil, Quebec, Canada), which manufactures turbofans, turboprops and turboshaft engines for regional, business, utility and military aircraft as well as helicopters, needed to migrate 500 engineers and 200 manufacturing staffers to an all-digital process that would, among many other benefits, eliminate the need for costly physical mock-ups. That alone saves P&WC an estimated $500,000 per engine development program.
But that's not the only benefit P&WC has realized from what it calls its Digital Engine project, which was completed in 2003. The project has also allowed the company to reduce the time it takes to develop an engine by 20%, cut machining time by 35%, reduce jig and fixture design costs by 13% and cut both rework and scrap by 10%. Overall, the project is saving P&WC more than $1 million annually through the use of assembly modeling, digital mock-ups and other features. The success of the Digital Engine project earned P&WC top honors in the Innovation Mastery category of Managing Automation's 2005 Progressive Manufacturing Awards.
Launched in 2001, the Digital Engine represents one of the major components of Pratt & Whitney Canada's broader Digital Enterprise program, which was scheduled to last three to five years and integrate the entire organization. The Digital Engine enables designers to work on engines concurrently in a virtual environment with other project stakeholders. In phase two of the Digital Enterprise program, P&WC will soon link remaining components of the Digital Enterprise initiative -- including the Digital Engine -- to the enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain management (SCM) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
"Basically we need to be a continually evolving company to be competitive," says Mario Modafferi, director, engine design, P&WC. "Our competitors are evolving. Our customers are evolving. We need to develop our engines faster than our customers take to put a new plane on the market. If a plane takes four years to develop, we need to be much shorter than that." In an intense marketplace, P&WC competes with Rolls Royce, Honeywell, GE and recent newcomer Honda. Adds Girgis: "Technology is key to our success."
In the '90s, Modafferi says, P&WC took as much as five years to develop an engine, from scratch to the final product. Today, as a result of the Digital Engine program, the company has reduced the average development time to three years and is looking to shorten the time even further. Adds Girgis, "We are on par or better than our competitors" when it comes to development time, "but we are not yet where we want to be."
The Digital Engine initiative was driven by a combination of the need to respond to competitive forces and a desire to develop engines more efficiently. To accomplish that, P&WC decided it needed to leverage the latest technology. The company turned to Dassault Systemes (Paris) and IBM (Armonk, NY) for assistance. The technology that powers the Digital Engine project is a Dassault and IBM product lifecycle management (PLM) application based on CATIA V5, a PLM package for digital product definition and simulation; ENOVIA Portal, a component of the PLM package that provides a complete set of integrated software to implement a digital enterprise; and DELMIA, a suite of digital 3-D manufacturing software products.
However, in many ways deploying the technology was the easy part of the initiative. Along with upgrading its entire PLM suite, P&WC committed to changing its business processes to match the abilities of the new technology, according to John MacKrell, a senior analyst with CIMdata (Ann Arbor, MI) who evaluated P&WC's PLM project.
"P&WC's approach was very unique," MacKrell says. "Their approach was to make changes to the fundamental ways they do business. Many companies make the mistake of thinking that if they buy the technology, they are suddenly PLM literate. The technology is only part of the story and the big part is modifying the business processes," he adds. "I give them very high marks for adopting new business processes to match the technology."
For instance, P&WC changed its processes to allow parts suppliers to access real-time designs through the Web. The interactive approach lets suppliers get a head start on designing parts for a particular engine program. Previously, designs had been transmitted on paper or electronically. However, during the design phase changes happen frequently, which quickly outdates paper copies of designs, MacKrell adds.
Another change: Besides eliminating costly physical mock-ups during the design phase, P&WC is taking advantage of seamless integration between the CATIA V5 engineering software and the DELMIA manufacturing environments, which saves time and money by managing the links between the 3-D product model and the manufacturing process that produces the engine.
Still, achieving those results was no easy task. Obviously the first hurdle was winning approval for such a large project, reports P&WC's Girgis. "As with any large investment, we had to sell the project to the company," Girgis says. "This was a large investment in financial resources, as well as a significant investment in time. We had to compete with everyone else for the funding and had to demonstrate that this was more valuable." And since it took about two years to roll out the project, "even during the rollout we had to compete for resources," adds Sherrill Nosovad, project manager, Digital Enterprise program at P&WC.
Changing On the Fly
Also complicating the upgrade to CATIA V5 from V4 was the move from a UNIX-based to a PC-based architecture. "On the day-to-day side, we had a mixed environment with the old and new system," Nosovad says. "We were moving to PCs, but the data was on a UNIX system on the back end." Migrating the data while working with Dassault to debug CATIA V5 (still a relatively untested product in 2001) added to the complexity of the project.
While the Digital Engine project has delivered significant ROI, Pratt & Whitney Canada isn't satisfied. The largest benefit will come when suppliers, partners and customers are integrated into the Digital Engine project, says Modafferi. For example, as an aircraft goes through the design process there are hundreds, if not thousands, of minor revisions and tweaks, many of which may impact the design of the aircraft's engines. "The biggest edge is being able to integrate the solution with our [aircraft manufacturer] customer. If we can design and develop along with the customer's product, we have a competitive edge," he says.
The process of integrating with suppliers and customers has begun, although there is a long way to go, admits Modafferi. Luckily, because P&WC is using the ENOVIA Portal, suppliers and partners will not have to purchase CATIA technology to participate in the Digital Engine initiative. "Before CATIA, our partners and suppliers would have to purchase technology, but now they can use it over a PC. CATIA is much more geared toward smaller enterprises. This is very important for many of our smaller suppliers who may not be as technologically advanced," Modafferi says.
Currently, P&WC is working closely with its two biggest customers to closely integrate its Digital Engine project with their systems. "Not only is there an advantage to us, but a customer gets an advantage as well," by getting engines that exactly match specifications as soon as the aircraft is ready to go into production, Girgis says.
Suppliers are also being worked into the system, although many already share data electronically with P&WC, Nosovad says. "Ultimately, a large percentage could integrate on the supplier side. They can go through the portal and get involved in the design and the geometry," she adds. "Our portal allows us to open up secure environments to our partners and suppliers around the world. We are integrating the entire business. We are well on the road to meeting all of our challenges."
One of the final phases of the project will be to integrate the Digital Engine project horizontally across other departments at P&WC, Girgis says. "This way everything will be under one version of control," including engineering specifications and documents, configuration and analytical reports, manufacturing data, operation sheets and even assembly instructions.
Within UTC, P&WC regularly shares its "lessons learned" on its Digital Engine project with the larger Pratt & Whitney U.S. division (affectionately known as "Big Pratt") and with helicopter maker Sikorsky, also a division of UTC -- both of which have their own digital design initiatives under way. "We are all implementing similar digital concepts," Modafferi says, admitting there is much good-natured debate about which UTC division has the most advanced digital design project.
"We meet periodically to share information so we don't make the same mistakes," Girgis says, adding that P&WC and Sikorsky are both on the same PLM software. "We also cry on each others shoulders occasionally. And we get together to leverage our demands for the software provider, which is always helpful."