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Pratt & Whitney's very visible, highly successful engineering data transformation

Pratt & Whitney

No mere IT project, new configuration management system functions as a key business enabler

Configurations are critical

To meet ambitious cost and cycle time reductions targeted by top management, Pratt & Whitney’s engineering organization needed to revitalize its handling of product data. Pratt & Whitney (P&W) has built more than half of the 34,000 commercial aircraft engines in service today and more than 40,000 military engines. The company is also a major player in rocket engine development as well as the production of gas turbines for power on land and propulsion at sea. Because its products are mission-critical and stay in service for decades, configuration management (CM) – knowing the exact part configuration of each and every engine – is a vital engineering activity. “In terms of safety, certification and customer support, configuration management is essential and we expend a lot of effort in that area,” says Vito Moreno, manager, technical applications, P&W Information Technology.

Previously, P&W used a combination of mainframe and server-based CM systems to manage product configuration during the development, production and aftermarket segments. These proprietary CM systems were costly to maintain in terms of hardware, software and IT support. Another problem with this approach was that it took a great deal of effort to keep the various CM databases (bills of material) in sync. “We relied on manual oversight to make sure all the bills of material (BOMs) were consistent. We spent an inordinate amount of time doing that,” says Moreno.

When top management set ambitious goals for reducing time to market, lowering development costs and minimizing post-certification engineering, it became clear that a more integrated and streamlined way of handling product data was necessary. As Moreno explains, “We needed to eliminate the redundant, manual effort involved in CM and get it off the mainframe to reduce the cost. We wanted a single system, based on modern web technology, that could manage product data throughout the entire engine lifecycle.”

Shift to commercial software permits paradigm shift

Rather than develop the new CM system in house, P&W decided to evaluate commercial product lifecycle management (PLM) software. By that time, the company had standardized on Unigraphics (now called NX™) as its product development system. Because the solid modeling technology within NX was capable of defining an entire engine down to the smallest part, engineering management made the decision that NX models would become the sole description of new engine configurations, making NX data the source of all BOMs in the new CM system.

That decision mandated tight integration between CAD and CM. That was one of the main reasons P&W selected Teamcenter® software as the PLM digital enterprise backbone for its new system. Says Moreno, “The tight integration between NX and Teamcenter was a significant part of our decision.” Another advantage of Teamcenter was that it could be integrated with SAP, P&W’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. That integration was important because it would allow product configuration data to seamlessly update supply and manufacturing applications.

“Our selection of Teamcenter was a significant tactical shift from in-house configuration management,” says Moreno. “We wouldn’t have done it if we hadn’t seen the tremendous potential Teamcenter offered. It supported our vision for an entirely new approach to configuration management based on CAD data.” P&W calls that approach “model-driven configuration management.”

Making model-driven CM a reality

Siemens PLM Software worked with P&W, adding capabilities to the core Teamcenter system to make CAD model-driven CM a reality. As a result of that effort, Teamcenter integrates NX model data, CM functionality, visualization capabilities for digital mockup and an innovative search engine to provide a total engineering data management solution.

Approximately 8,000 P&W employees now use Teamcenter to gain immediate access to graphical and textual product data. They can search an engine database for a particular part number, for example, then view the part graphically either alone or within the context of nearby parts. Changes to a part can also be seen graphically instead of simply as line items on BOMs, as in the past. Siemens PLM Software believes this is the first time such an approach has been implemented in commercial software.

With this new system, the CM process has become a by-product of engineering design. Changes to a CAD model update all related BOMs automatically, eliminating the manual effort formerly required to keep the various BOMs in sync.

In addition, P&W has re-engineered its paper-based engineering change (EC) process with Teamcenter change management and workflow capabilities, speeding the process by automating the flow of data. The new EC approach also fosters better decision-making by providing immediate access to all pertinent data including easily understood graphical images to all reviewers.

As part of the Teamcenter implementation, Siemens PLM Software and P&W migrated 40+ years of engine data (millions of parts, some dating back to World War II and hundreds of thousands of BOMs and CAD files) into the new system. Siemens PLM Software also developed the visualization component of the system (which permits digital mockups within the CM environment) to P&W’s standards. This intelligent visualization component saves a great deal of time by loading only the necessary graphical data instead of complete assemblies or subassemblies as most visualization systems do.

Integration with ERP permits faster assembly

P&W is one of the largest SAP installations in its industry with millions of ERP transactions per day. The ERP system is critical to managing the ordering and delivery of the 25 thousand parts needed to assemble an engine. Teamcenter has been integrated with SAP at P&W since October, 2001.

This integration plays a key role in meeting engine delivery dates, according to Moreno. “Engine configurations are changing constantly and all that information is managed by Teamcenter,” explains Moreno. “When the engineering organization validates a change to an engine, the information flows immediately to SAP, which alerts the supplier to deliver the new part. This eliminates the need for manual intervention between engineering and the supply base.”

The Teamcenter-SAP integration also automatically notifies the system that creates the electronic assembly instructions for the mechanics. Engineering changes occur hundreds of times during the development and production lifecycle of an engine model.

Moreno credits the immediate flow of information from Teamcenter to SAP as contributing to a reduction in engine assembly cycle time and an increase in product quality. “The integration ensures that the authorized part number is delivered and assembled into the scheduled engine serial number,” he explains.

Cost savings realized across programs

At this time, all of P&W’s development and production programs are managed by Teamcenter. Four expensive legacy CM systems have been shut down for significant cost savings in hardware and software maintenance as well as IT support. “P&W’s infrastructure for client-server and web-based applications was already in place, facilitating the transition to Teamcenter,” Moreno adds.

Cost savings also come from the elimination of the manual effort needed to keep the previous CM databases in sync. This is a direct result of consolidating multiple BOMs into a single product description managed by Teamcenter.

As a bonus, P&W sees enhanced customer satisfaction due to greater accuracy in its product data. “Inconsistencies that were introduced by manual manipulation had the potential to filter down into the technical information we gave to the customer,” explains Moreno. “Since we’ve switched to Teamcenter, we’ve improved that dramatically.”

The cost savings, combined with the productivity enhancements in engineering and manufacturing made possible by Teamcenter, are helping P&W achieve its mandated cycle time and cost reductions. And that was the purpose of implementing Teamcenter all along. Says Moreno, “The Teamcenter implementation would not have been as successful as it is without the support and direction of senior management. They viewed it not as an IT project but as a key enabler to achieving our corporate goals.”

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