Dave Parry: How Industry 4.0 Is Changing the Manufacturing Landscape in Aviation

Industry 4.0 and the concept of connected factories took center stage at this year’s Aviation Week Network Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina. Leading the charge as keynote speaker was Pratt & Whitney’s Dave Parry, vice president of Manufacturing & Assembly, who highlighted how Industry 4.0 is changing the manufacturing landscape in aviation as well as how Pratt & Whitney is applying these standards to the company’s worldwide manufacturing footprint for lean, connected and automated operations.

Pratt & Whitney’s newest greenfield site – a 1.2 million square foot turbine airfoil production facility in Asheville, North Carolina – represents the harmonized execution of the company’s CORE Operating System and Industry 4.0 strategy integrated together under one roof.

“We had an opportunity to take our Industry 4.0 vision and turn it into a reality,” Parry said. “In the future, we see the volume increasing for turbine airfoil production to support our Pratt & Whitney GTF engine and F135 product lines. These investments helps to ensure we have the capacity, infrastructure, production capabilities and workforce in place to meet future market demand.”

From day one, the Industry 4.0 concept of a digital twin played a big role in the vision and creation of the new Pratt & Whitney facility. Before any work began, the landscape and topography was digitized, followed by placing hundreds of digital building renditions overtop the digital topography.

The new greenfield site in Asheville not only encompasses Industry 4.0 standards but it also improves Pratt & Whitney’s current value stream for turbine airfoils through efficiency and improved workflow.

“An airfoil previously traveled over 2,500 miles, and was handed off at eight different sites,” Parry said. “As you can imagine, the amount of excess freight, inventory, double handling, and inspection time adds up to a lot of waste in the process.”

The new site concept touts its efficiency and improved workflow by being vertically integrated for turbine airfoil production. Everything will be co-located under one roof. There will be zero site handoffs, and the part will travel less than a mile, a significant improvement from today’s operations.

The Asheville site also provides future opportunity for current brownfield sites. The principles used in the development of the new site will serve as the framework to scale broadly.

The greenfield build allowed us to question everything and ask, ‘is it future proof?’” Parry said. “We blueprinted the future state, we’re codifying our standards, iterating our lessons learned, and then we’re integrating those lessons back into our brownfield sites. Over the next several years we are converging to the factory of the future broadly in scale. That’s our plan,” he said.

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