Pratt & Whitney Canada is transforming its design and manufacturing processes, streamlining operations by eliminating steps and improving connectivity and compatibility. The moves are being made to help the company improve and maintain its engines while also setting the stage for a move into 3-D manufacturing.
Many of the design and manufacturing processes at P&WC have evolved to meet the needs of disparate groups. That’s made it difficult to share information as remote sites and outsourcing have become more prevalent. These design and manufacturing trends, coupled with a number of business issues, prompted the company to revamp its processes.
“There’s been a lot of pressure on our industry since the ’08 downturn,” said John Wyzykowski, Director of Productivity, P&WC. “We’ve got 50,000 engines operating now, and we think we’ll be at 70,000 by 2020. We’d like to service them with the same number of people. At the same time, about 20% of our employees will be eligible for retirement in the next few years, so we need to capture their knowledge so we can continue to innovate.”
P&WC is taking a corporate-wide approach designed to make it simpler for employees in different groups to work together. Product life-cycle management tools (PLM) will be a critical element in that transformation, providing an overarching structure for communication and data sharing.
“Early in 2013, we began a transformational change that’s being implemented across the enterprise,” Wyzykowski said. “Our designs go through 5101 handoffs today, we want to get that down to 1551, which is a 70% reduction. We have 160 applications, we hope to reduce that by 50% to 80. And now we have 25 bills of materials. We want to reduce that to one.”
Wyzykowski noted that when the company tracked the design process by following all parts of the design from end to end, each component had many touch points when data files were accessed. Often, no benefits were gained by the handoffs that occurred when engineers passed these files along.
“Our philosophy going forward is that people won’t touch a file unless they’re going to improve it,” Wyzykowski said. “We don’t want intermediaries to take value out. For example, someone might take some data and alter a tiny portion and the original intent of the data can be lost.”
A central aspect of the program is to let all P&WC employees share design data. Many companies have acquired hardware and software that fit their requirements but are not compatible with other equipment. PLM tools from Dassault Systemes will be a central component of this evolving strategy.
“A lot of systems don’t talk to each other, we need all of them to be connected,” Wyzykowski said. “In the next phase, we’ll link the multiple organizations that now have their own systems. In the following phase, we’ll go to select outside suppliers and set a different class of contractors that are compatible with our systems.”
This compatibility will also ensure that all P&WC employees are working from what’s called a single version of the truth. Data will be stored on servers that can be accessed by any authorized employee, ensuring that employees are always working with up-to-date files.
The transformation will also help P&WC adopt the newest technology in manufacturing, ramping up its additive manufacturing capabilities rapidly. 3-D manufacturing can be quite helpful in engine designs, since unusually shaped parts can be built up in far less time than comparable parts made with conventional subtractive processes such as milling. Additive processes can also create complex designs as a single component, simplifying manufacturing.
Part of a $275 million investment over five years will go toward 3-D manufacturing. The Quebec government recently contributed $19 million to this project. Wyzykowski noted that the transition to 3-D PLM will be a major step for this move to additive manufacturing, eliminating the transitions that now occur when 2-D designs are transformed to 3-D parts.
“PLM is an enabler for many things,” Wyzykowski said. “The source for additive manufacturing is data in 3-D, so having 3-D PLM data will help us input data in 3-D and realize the output with a final part ready for production.”