How Pratt & Whitney is Planning a Smooth Entry into Service for the GTF Engine
Market success brings new challenges. At Pratt & Whitney, the challenge emerging from the success of the PW1000G (typically called GTF) engine is the introduction of six different engine models that will be installed on 13 different aircraft from five manufacturers on four continents during the next five years. That means supporting hundreds of customers, many of them new customers, spread throughout the world. Calling it a massive task would be an understatement, even for a company with millions of flight hours of experience and an existing global support and service network.
At PW, what happens after a sale is considered as important as the sale itself – to the point that the Commercial Engines Group has two Presidents. One President is for Engines, focusing on the development and sale of new engines, and the other President for the Aftermarket, focusing on customer support, operations, parts sales, and by the hour maintenance programs. Within customer support, a group has been created specifically for helping customers with entry into service (EIS) for new engines. That process begins 15-18 months prior to the arrival of a new aircraft to ensure that no issues arise, and that nothing falls through the cracks before the new aircraft, and its new GTF engines, arrive to join the airline operations.
A More Formal Entry Into Service Process
The EIS group has incorporated learning from experience with prior engine programs and translated that experience into a more formal process. Combined with the expansion of training, maintenance and spares facilities and assembling a “go-team” of experienced personnel to be on site with customers, the preparations for the GTF engine EIS are more rigorous than for past programs. Management wants to be certain that nothing is overlooked when bringing new customers on board, and that high dispatch reliability is achieved from day one of operations.
The heart of the change is the formality of what is described as a “gated process.” EIS for the GTF engine is a 7-step process with “gates” or checkpoints at 2-3 month intervals leading up to delivery of the aircraft, and continued support following EIS to ensure a smooth process. The major gates to that process are shown in the following diagram.
Gate zero provides an introduction to the process and enables PW and the airline to establish a strong line of communications and typically begins 15-18 months prior to EIS.
Gate 1 establishes the baseline for the engine, including spares provisioning and a review of the business processes the customer has chosen from the PW menu about one year from EIS, and familiarizes customers with the tools and options available.
Gates 2 entails preparation for servicing the new engines, and begins about 9 months from EIS. This preparation includes scheduling of training classes, and planning for how PW and the customer will interact regarding maintenance issues.
Gate 3, about 6 months from EIS, entails training mechanics and maintenance personnel, delivering technical publications and repair procedures, and working with the customer to ensure that those new processes are ready to go once the aircraft and engines arrive.
Gate 4, about 3 months from EIS, provides the final preparations for receipt of the engine, including whatever specialized tooling might be required, providing any support equipment, and working with the customer to run “simulations” of events so that they know whom within PW to call for various events, and that PW is ready to provide that support on the other side and understands the customers requirements and logistical arrangements.
Gate 5 occurs at EIS, and the PW “go team” arrives on site to support the EIS process with the airline. This team of experienced PW field representatives provides assistance to ensure a smooth EIS.
Gate 6, about 3 months after EIS, is when the “go team” is assured that the customer is ready for smooth operations and doesn’t require additional assistance, moving to a “normal” operational mode.
Leveraging Existing and New Infrastructure
PW’s existing service and support network is world class, but will be tested by the rapid growth and new customer base from the GTF program, which already has commitments for more than 6,000 engines before the first engine enters service. This will certainly add volume to the customer support function, and entails adding staff to accommodate the rapid growth over the next five years as the 13 new aircraft models powered by the GTF engine are introduced.
In recent years, PW has dramatically upgraded its customer support function to benefit from the technological improvements in aircraft engines. From improved access to Engine Health Monitoring data to administrative process improvements like electronic invoicing, the customer support function has become a focal point for the organization and its dedicated leadership.
Today, PW has more than 300 field personnel deployed in more than 65 offices worldwide. For the GTF EIS program, a team of the most experienced field representatives has been created and assigned specifically to this function. For new GTF engine operators, this team of “elite” customer service personnel will be co-located with customers for the critical portion of their EIS period – just before and just after delivery of the aircraft. That team can assist in troubleshooting problems and leverage the PW resources worldwide to solve any problems that may emerge.
Training is an important element in EIS, and PW recently opened a training facility in Beijing, a facility similar to their main East Hartford location. An additional training facility is now under construction in Hyderabad, India to support the subcontinent and Middle Eastern customers. We visited the East Hartford facility recently, which was in the process of undergoing a major changeover in order to support the GTF engine programs and ready initial training classes for customers early in 2015.
Component repair is important to keeping maintenance costs low. Since 2000, PW has developed more than 25,000 repairs, and routinely repairs more than 1 million parts each year. More than 300 engineers are dedicated to repair development, and since 2003, scrap avoidance and value-engineering clinics have saved customers more than $200 million in replacement parts. According to Andrew Tanner, Vice President Customer Service, “development of repairs for key components of the GTF engine are already underway, and providing cost-effective repairs for the GTF engine will be a top priority for the repair development engineering team in 2015 before it enters service in the fourth quarter with Airbus and Bombardier.”
Overhaul and maintenance is also an important aftermarket function, and PW offers its own repair and overhaul services. Since 2000, the PW service facilities have overhauled more than 10,000 engines. The first facility chosen to overhaul the GTF engine is Eagle Services Asia, a joint venture between PW and Singapore Aerospace located in Singapore. We expect additional facilities, including the Columbus (Georgia) Engine Center, Christchurch, Shanghai, and Turkish Engine Centers to add GTF capabilities as the program matures and customer demand increases with engine deliveries.
PW is also utilizing advanced technology to communicate with customers and ease the interfaces between an airline and PW. PW has a 24/7 Global Operations Center that currently handles more than 40,000 inquiries per year. That Center is a resource for customers that can rouse engineers from their beds, provide coordination for repairs and spare parts, and solve problems that are out of the ordinary for customers. Of course, PW maintains representatives at many customers, and has 65 field offices worldwide. Those resident experts are the key to problem solving as quickly and as close to the customer as possible.
PW customers have access to a number of service offerings, including “power by the hour” programs that have grown in popularity. Industry experts predict that the next generation of aircraft engines could see 80% of customers with power by the hour agreements with the three major engine OEMs. In addition to by the hour programs, PW offers materials management programs that range from traditional customer driven processes to long-term agreements, inventory logistics programs, and even full materials management solutions that are driven by PW.
PW has also developed a high-technology customer online portal that provides real-time access to Engine Health Monitoring and Maintenance Data, an interactive repair catalog, engine shop visibility, the capability to search technical publications, simplified spares ordering and even electronic invoicing.
With today’s e-enabled aircraft, such as the CSeries, performance monitoring can be performed in real-time through a data link, or alternatively downloaded at the end of the flight, depending on customer preference. The benefits of performance monitoring are well established, including better dispatch reliability, lower costs, and keeping engines operating at peak efficiency.
The Bottom Line
The infrastructure is in place, and the customers are coming. The challenge for Pratt & Whitney will be to get all of its customers aircraft smoothly into service, and integrated seamlessly with the services that they require from Pratt & Whitney. With a structured process and a committed team, meeting that daunting challenge appears both feasible and likely to succeed.
© 2014, Ernest S. Arvai. All rights reserved.