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Pratt & Whitney’s Lean Product Development Journey


Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation – UTC, is a world leader to design, manufacture, and service aircraft engines and auxiliary power units headquartered in East Hartford, Connecticut, USA.

Excellence is one of the seven Pratt & Whitney’s (P&W) core values. With the aim to continuously improve the company’s processes and ensure excellence is present in every product and service delivered to its customers, P&W applies lean thinking principles and other continuous improvement techniques in the product development process. Through its journey, the company has focused on deploying best practices such as Set Based Concurrent Engineering and Trade-off curves among others, aligning the product development ptocess to the company’s Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Continuous Improvement vision.

By reading further, you will learn how Pratt & Whitney integrates lean to achieve business excellence and discover where to find more details about their Lean Product Development journey.

Pratt & WhitneyPratt & Whitney was founded in Hartford, Connecticut, US in 1925 by Frederick Rentschler and since then it builds its business on the seven core values: Excellence, Innovation, Dependability, Adaptability, Customer service, Integrity, and Accountability.

Pratt & Whitney’s products are Engineered-to-Order (ETO), therefore the company focuses significant efforts on gathering and managing customer requirements’, ensuring they are well understood and clearly translated into the organizational language in order to design new products fully aligned to its customers’ expectations.

Pratt & Whitney (P&W) has been applying Lean principles and other continuous improvement methods for many years. Jim Womack visited one of the P&W manufacturing facilities and included the findings in his book “Lean Thinking”. All of these methods were captured in an all-encompassing system called “ACE” which stands for “Achieving Competitive Excellence” implemented in 2005. All P&W functions, from program management to manufacturing and the supply chain, use ACE and, therefore, apply Lean to their processes and value streams.

In 2009, Pratt & Whitney Engineering recognized the need to reduce the time spent on product development. Engineering assembled a small team to evaluate Ward’s Lean Product Development model, based on his four pillar model: Set-Based Concurrent Engineering (SBCE); Teams of Responsible Experts; Cadence, Pull and Flow; and the Entrepreneur System Designer.


Pratt & Whitney Lean Product Development Journey

Through its journey, Pratt & Whitney implemented several practices in their Lean Product Development process. These practices were identified and structured according to the four building blocks of the Lean Innovation Model proposed by the Lean Analytics Association as a generic framework to consolidate best practices across industries. The detailed explanation of each of the lean practices identified are available at Pratt & Whitney chapter in the Lean Product Development Best Practices Book. Below, just a few of the identified best practices are briefly described:


Pratt & Whitney follows “Success Assured” vision that predicts more time spent on the early phases of product development with frequent integration events to focus on knowledge gap closure, coupled with continuous technology development and only starting detailed design when a high confidence “paper engine” is achieved.


P&W invests heavily in developing its engineering competencies towards innovation. Their internal Engineering Technical University (ETU) selects and engages high profile employees to be trained through class lectures supported by on-the-job training and gamification techniques, where development is achieved through mentoring, coaching and supervision.


Set-based concurrent engineering is an integral element of P&W’s product development process and is enabled by methods and techniques that help visualize the design space. Decision maps are used to identify the knowledge gap that can be filled with “Robust Design” methods to visualize and understand the design space as well as variation and uncertainty.


P&W’s improvement process is enabled through the deployment of their “Achieving Competitive Excellence” system (ACE) common to all UTC subsidiaries, which was introduced in 2005 and has been followed ever since. The three elements of ACE are: tools, competency, and culture. It provides the foundation for delivering value to UTC customers and stakeholders.


Consolidated Best Practices as identified in Pratt & Whitney, structured around the Lean Innovation Model

Impact of applying Lean Thinking in Product Development

The company estimates that its component-level Design for Variation initiatives have yielded a 64% to 88% return on investment by reducing design iterations, improving manufacturability, increasing reliability, improving on-time deliveries and providing other performance benefits.

As Pratt & Whitney focuses increasingly on the systems level, it estimates that it will realize a 40-times return on investment by achieving systems-level reliability goals much earlier in the development cycle. An ultimate benefit is shortening the overall development cycle as reported from ANSYS Advantage Staff, in 2013.

Book 2017 - Mockup 01 (small-900px)

Pratt & Whitney’s Best Practices are presented and described on more than 25 pages in the Lean Product Development Best Practices book. Pratt & Whitney’s chapter is only one out of the 10 chapters presenting the real-world application of lean product development in multinational companies.

The hard copy of the book with the 10 cases is available for only 74.99 EUR.


Pratt & Whitney’s Lean Product Development case is available digitally free of charge to our members.


Interested to become a member?


Pratt & Whitney

LAA team Gemba Walk at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, USA.

About the Authors

DMaklin 2016 (Profile Rounded) B&WDOROTEJA MAKLIN

Lean Analytics Association

Doroteja has 3 years of experience collaborating in lean product development projects with a background in mechanical engineering and ultra-precision technologies. She has worked with global organizations from various industrial sectors, either leading or supporting the development and introduction of bespoke lean innovation and new product development solutions.

Doroteja is interested in innovation capability development and over the past years, she has developed several training courses to support organizations achieving quick and efficient knowledge transfer through customized simulated sessions. Being a certified Service Design Thinking Facilitator she believes in “Doing, not speaking” and supporting developments of truly customer-centric products and services.

Doroteja is a co-author of the Lean Product Development Best Practices book and conference publications.


Lean Analytics Association

Dr. Flores has over 20 years of experience collaborating as internal or external consultant in different manufacturing and services organizations, leading several initiatives related to Lean Thinking, Business Process Improvement, Six Sigma, Supply Chain, Change Management, Open Innovation, Digital Transformation and Human Centered Service Design; providing also training and coaching.

She is co-founder and president of the Lean Analytics Association (LAA) and visiting scholar at the College of Management of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

She carried out her Post-doc at EPFL collaborating at the Lean Product and Process (LeanPPD) FP7 European Project from 2009 to 2013. She completed her PhD in 2006 at the Politecnico di Milano studying Open Innovation Models to enable Industry-University collaboration for innovation. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Manufacturing Systems in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Monterrey Tec (ITESM) in 1996.

Myrna Flores
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