May 13, 2019

The Lean Transformation and Journey in Pratt and Whitney


Pratt & Whitney - Ten Years of Lean and Cost Management/Productivity Improvement of F135 Engine

Pratt & Whitney practices Product Industrial Engineering and Process Industrial Engineering. Various methods and techniques of industrial engineering are used by the organization to improve productivity, eliminate waste, reduce cost and provide the customer enhanced quality at reduced prices. Quality improvement and cost reduction are two separate activities and planned and engineered cost reduction always preserves quality of a product or process. Both F.W. Taylor and L.D. Miles were emphatic on this principles.  Quality and reliability are to preserved and post industrial engineering, there has to be demonstration that quality and reliability are preserved and only waste activities or material consumption is located and eliminated.

Ten years back,  Pratt & Whitney, the propulsion unit of United Technologies, delivered its first production version of the F135 engine for the F-35 fighter program.

Over the period, Pratt has managed to reduce the cost of producing the engine by over half in the last ten years. It plans to continue cutting manufacturing costs in the years ahead through tight management of production processes and suppliers. Long-term agreements with suppliers emphasize continuous performance improvements - quality and productivity. It has also  focused on cutting the cost of maintaining the engines once they are in service. Pratt believes that it can cut sustainment costs in half the same way it has cut production cost. It incorporates an unprecedented array of sensors and instrumentation in the engine for monitoring performance. The engine’s ability to diagnose problems before they impact performance minimizes downtime and maximizes the life of key components. As a result, F135 is consistently delivering a mission-capable rate of 95% or better, which is unusual for a new engine.

Nearly 500 engines were delivered so far to both domestic and foreign customers. In 2019  it expects to deliver around 150.  Managing large number of  suppliers is a challenge—but the company has applied digital tracking and lean techniques to every facet of the supply-chain process.

Production inputs are outsourced to suppliers who themselves have unique competency or lower cost structures for specific types of parts and components. Production of Pratt’s geared turbofan is revolutionizing propulsion for commercial jetliners.  Over time it will scale up the geared turbofan for larger commercial transports.  Pratt is eyeing a diverse array of practices aimed at cutting the cost of ownership for F135. Some of these practices are enabled by the engine’s design, which requires only six simple hand tools to make most repairs. Pratt wants to examine innovative repair practices, further application of digital technology to every facet of life-cycle support, and ways of extending the life of key parts in the engines.

2011 - 2018



The Year of Living Digitally

Kimberley Hagerty became lean transformation manager at Pratt & Whitney’s Hot Section Module Center.

Hagerty uses over 1000 machines in four different states to build one customer order for turbine blades and vanes. From a virtual factory standpoint, it is a very significant challenge to get enterprise visibility of working of 1000 machines in real time. Data collection analysis and presentation, all are challenges.

March 9, 2017

Connected Assets Accelerate the Journey to Lean Manufacturing
By Joe BarkaiAugust 15, 2017


Inspired By Detroit, Pratt To Christen Moving Assembly Line

Excellence is one of six Pratt & Whitney’s (P&W) core values. The objective to ensure excellence is represented in all and every product and service its customers receive, P&W applies lean product development principles. It uses continuous improvement techniques in design and manufacturing.
Set-based concurrent engineering is an integral part of P&W’s product development process.


The experiences of Pratt & Whitney was covered in this book.

Worker Leadership: America's Secret Weapon in the Battle for Industrial Competitiveness

Fred Stahl
MIT Press, 20-Sep-2013 - Business & Economics - 245 pages

How to increase both job satisfaction and enterprise productivity—and make American manufacturing competitive again.

How can American manufacturing recapture its former dominance in the globalized industrial economy? In Worker Leadership, Fred Stahl proposes a strategy to boost enterprise productivity and restore America's industrial power. Stahl outlines a revolutionary transformation of industrial culture that offers workers real control of production operations and manufacturing processes (as well as a monetary share of the savings from productivity gains). Stahl develops this new Theory of Worker Productivity into a strategy of Worker Leadership, with concrete, real-world examples.

Combining some of the methods of lean manufacturing made famous by Toyota with genuine worker empowerment unlike anything at Toyota, Worker Leadership creates highly productive jobs loaded with responsibility and authority. Workers, Stahl writes, love these jobs precisely because of the opportunities to be creative and productive. Worker Leadership also offers important benefits for organized labor. It promotes the vitality and growth of labor unions through a shared responsibility with management for growth and profitability.

Stahl's approach was inspired by changes implemented at John Deere factories by a general manager named Dick Kleine. Stahl uses the story of Kleine's transformation of the Deere factories to construct a checklist of essential conditions for Worker Leadership. He also discusses competition with China and South Korea and tells the story of production that GE recently “reshored” from China to the United States. Stahl considers the potential for applying Worker Leadership beyond manufacturing, provides a brief history of manufacturing, and even reveals the dark side of Toyota's system that opens another competitive opportunity for America.

Worker Leadership offers a blueprint for global competitive advantage that should be read by anyone concerned about America's current productivity paralysis.

How to Root Out Waste and Pursue Perfection
James P. WomackDaniel T. Jones

The Lean Transformation in Pratt and Whitney - 1991 - 1995

Mark Coran, UTC Controller got a new assignment on 1 June 1991, to manage the costs of Pratt and Whitney, UTC's largest subsidiary and builder of aircraft engines.

After discussions, it was decided to implement lean principles in physical production first.

Coran announced that every product would be made in continuous flow to the maximum extent possible with a cost reduction target of 35% in constant dollar terms in four years and lead time reduction target of four months.  He brought in a lean thinker from UTC Headquarters, Bob D'Amore.  Despite initial attempts things did not move as expected.  In the mean time George David moved up to become President of Untied Technologies and was introduced to lean thinking by Ary Byrne. He visited Wiremold and saw Shingijutsu consultants working on the shop floor and coming up with improvement suggestions. When Mark Coran reported his status of the project to David, he immediately suggested to him to employ Shingijutsu consultants. But they came to know that GE's Aircraft Engine Group is planning to engage them. But David made an emergency appointment with them and got into a multiyear agreement.

Chihiro Nakao, a Shingijutsu consultant visited the factory in May 1992.  In the space of a week, he demonstrated many improvements in the Pratt's Middletown, Connecticut plant. Also, Karl Krapek, an industrial engineering degree holder from Purdue and who also completed General Motors' IE program was deputed as President of Pratt and Whitney.

Krapek tried to implement JIT in General Motors, but got into problems and them moved to Otis Elevator. From there, he moved to Carrier where he was implementing lean with the help of Shingijutsu. He came to Pratt, and grouped the two thousand parts of in a jet engine into seven product categories - rotors and shafts, turbine airfoils, combustors and cases, nacelles, forged compressor airfoils, compressor stator assemblies and general machines parts. Each product category was housed in a plant with the eighth plant being final assembly.

The fall in demand of Pratt at this point in time demanded head count reduction. Lean transformation required the concepts of multiskilling and mutli machine operations, job rotation, and continuous shuffling work groups to accommodate varying volumes of different varieties of engines. After protracted negotiations between the International Association of Machinist, George David and Karl Krapek, and the State of Connecticut, an agreement was reached in the spring of 1993 to reduce manpower to 29,000 from 53,000 in 1991.

The two basic activities of P&W are fabrication of parts from castings or forgings and assembling them into engines.

Turbine Blade Manufacturing Division

In 1991, 1,350 employees used 600 machines to manufacture #1 billion worth of turbine blades and guide vanes.   Ed Northern organized the plant in 1993 into flow lines and also made it possible to reconfigure them as needed. With the modification in the next two years, overdue parts fell to zero, inventory was cut in half, manufacturing cost was reduced by 50% in many cases, and labor productivity doubled.

Redesign of a Monument in Turbine Blade Manufacturing Division

Womack and Jones say a monument in lean thinking is any machine which is too big to be moved and whose scale requires operation in a batch mode. In the case of this North Haven turbine blade unit it is a massive $80 million complex of Hauni-Blohm blade grinding centers.

The redesing involved $1.7 million per cell and it reduced throughput time to 175 minutes from the earlier 10 days. The grinding cost per blade was also brought down to 50%.

The Final Assembly Plant

Bob Weiner was the  head of final assembly. Yuzuro Ito  was asked to help in the quality area as a consultant.  The engine was placed on a moving track.

It is interesting to note that Ito developed "Achieving Competitive Excellence" methodology and Pratt & Whityney and other subsidiaries of UTC even today practice it and write about it as their operating philosophy
(Regarding Ito and ACE:

P&W’s improvement process is enabled though the use of an Achieving Competitive Excellence system (ACE) common to all UTC subsidiaries, which was introduced in 2005 and is followed ever since. The three elements of ACE – tools, competency, and culture – provide the basis for delivering value to UTC customers and stakeholders.

Pratt's lean transformation did turn around the plant from problems.

Operating results improved from losses in 1992 and 93 to profits in 94 and 95.


Lean Thinking
Jim Womack and Dan Jones
Simon and Schuster, 2003

Updated on 14 May 2019, 2 May 2019,  12 November 2018,  14 August 2018
First published on 24 February 2014


  1. In Pratt & Whitney Lean started in 1991.

  2. 28 years later, still Pratt & Whitney is into productivity improvement and standard cost reduction.

  3. What is lean? One explanation is reduction in batch quantities in production and purchase.

    Redesign of a Monument in Turbine Blade Manufacturing Division

    Womack and Jones say a monument in lean thinking is any machine which is too big to be moved and whose scale requires operation in a batch mode. In the case of this North Haven turbine blade unit it is a massive $80 million complex of Hauni-Blohm blade grinding centers.

  4. United Technologies Corp., the 43rd largest corporation in the United States, has headquarters in Hartford, Conn., and provides a broad range of high-technology products and support services to customers in the aerospace and building industries worldwide.

  5. Product and Process Industrial Engineering in Pratt & Whitney - 50% cost reduction in production and maintenance of engine