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Case Study- Pratt & Whitney Engineering Standard Work
A standard procedure for accomplishing engineering tasks was implemented by Pratt & Whitney to enhance its product development process, which has experienced some changes from the early 1990s. The methodology was tested with two programs in P&W and proved to increase efficiency in the execution product designs.
Pratt & Whitney (P&W) is an aerospace company that specializes in gas turbine manufacturing. Since its foundation in 1925, the company has kept leadership in the market. This leadership was accomplished by the progress of its product development process and the creation of a standard procedure named Engineering Standard Work (ESW) to comply with a changing and competitive market.
This paper shows the analysis of the competitive market of the aerospace industry in the early 2000, the evolution of the P&W product development process by the implementation of concurrent engineering and ESW. It is worth mentioning that the whole essay is based on the work published by Harvard Business School called “Pratt & Whiney: Engineering Standard Work” by H. Bowen and C. Purrington.
Aerospace Industry in Early 2000 and Beyond
Challenges and Impact on P&W
By 2000, one of the main challenges faced by the aerospace industry was the intense market conditions imposed by airline companies so that high tech and more efficient engines were developed at short times and lower costs. These upgrades affected negatively the market and the aftermarket revenues of P&W. For instance, as the engines were more powerful the aircrafts needed fewer units, reducing sales. In addition, being more reliable, engines required less service and corrective maintenance; therefore, fewer spare parts were sold and service contracts diminished.
Moreover, there was an economic recession between 2000 and 2003. Subsequently, new aircraft orders fell and also airlines decided to reduce costs by taking out circulation some old airplanes. A vast group of these grounded airplanes were powered by P&W, whose profits related to service and maintenance to the engines already installed in those airplanes dropped.
Assessment of Product Development at P&W
Before 1990, work methodology in P&W was based on testing designs by prototyping (Exhibit 1). At the beginning of the 1990s, this methodology was changed by computer modelling and simulation design, this practice made them save time and money in the design stage. In addition, the company enabled concurrent engineering by creating the Integrated Program Deployment (IPD).
From the mid-90s, P&W reduced developing and manufacturing costs and time by decentralizing the engineering organization to create module centers, where manufacturing and other disciplines were involved in the design. In this sense, designs were easier to manufacture and assemble. Each module center was responsible for the design of an entire assembly and also the whole process of product readiness (purchasing, manufacturing, delivering and customer support). Furthermore, wanting to reduce operating costs, P&W reduced its manufacturing footmark consolidating its two facilities into one.
P&W was a vanguardist company; its concern about complying with the market needs (products at the cutting-edge of technology at reduced costs and time to market) made it change and improve its product development process to evolve as a more efficient company in terms of time, costs and knowledge asset.
Engineering Standard Work
Engineering Standard Work (ESW) is a web-based system which provides process control by documenting proven tasks and procedures involved in a development product. The challenges related to this methodology are mentioned below.
- Hardness to establish standard knowledge and capabilities of engineering discipline.
- Mapping the huge quantities of the developing process tasks into a clear standard procedure.
- Deficient executive support affecting engineer’s motivation.
In the paper of Kent and Purringtong (2003, pp. 9-11), the six elements of the ESW are mentioned as follow.
- Workflow maps, included relationship between tasks.
- Tools and method, provided work procedures and how to model and validate designs.
- Design criteria.
- Design standards, related to production best practices.
- Lessons learned.
- Practitioner proficiency assessments, conducted to determine the ability of the employees and levels of supervising.
To implement ESW in P&W, the leader of the program persuaded the senior executive vice president of the company to apply the methodology. With the directive support, ESW was accepted by each module center. While developing and employing ESW, deciding which engineer is suitable for each practice became relevant.
The risk associated to ESW was the reliability of the data, since this methodology required clear and accurate information regarding engineering process proven to work. In addition, there was a concern to lose creativity and innovation among the engineers as the procedures could turn work in something monotonous. Another threat faced at that time was not to finish on time the two projects the company was working on while developing ESW.
As there is a concern in whether to apply ESW in other functions or not, and how to cultivate creative talent of engineers while working with ESW methodology, some suggestions are proposed.
Analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of ESW (Exhibit 2), it is suggested that this work methodology should be applied to other P&W functions. The main reason is that it creates a work standard procedure that reduces flaws and rework along the path of bringing a new product, making product design execution more efficient. Subsequently, even thought it represents over work on employees, customer requirements could be met reducing time and costs and generating a better quality and more reliable product.
Due to the hazard of work repetitiveness while using ESW, cultivating creative talents of the staff is crucial to overcome competitors and satisfy customer needs. This can be assured by standardizing only the tasks that does not require innovation, and also exploiting engineer’s creativity in specific targets such a design concept and improvement of procedures.
In addition, to guarantee company future leadership, efficiency and innovation are necessary goals. Even when some efficiency was achieved with ESW, promoting engineers motivation is mandatory to accomplish both goals. This incentive could be expressed in terms of monetary reward, or prizes that elevate the workforce spirit.
1. Bowen, H. K., and Purrington, C., 2003. Pratt & Whitney: Engineering Standard Work. [pdf] Harvard Business School. Available at: <https://moodle.concordia.ca/moodle/course/view.php?id=72619> [Accessed 5 February 2015]
Exhibit 1. Product development evolution at Pratt & Whitney
Exhibit 2. Advantages and disadvantages of ESW