Aerospace engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney expanded its use of a low-code resource to streamline certain operational processes and make more efficient use of its veterans’ institutional memory.
With nearly a century of history, Pratt & Whitney is a staple of the aerospace and defense industries. Its engines can be found in the F-35 Lightning II fighter, the venerable B-52 bomber, as well as commercial and civilian aircraft.
The breadth of its production led to the company accumulating more than 2,000 different types of forms that became a challenge to track, says Jocelyn Brulé, digital technology manager with Pratt & Whitney. In the past, such forms might have been printed and signed for approval, but he says that was no longer feasible with much of the staff working remotely through the pandemic. Further, the old method of getting printed approvals was inefficient -- something had to change. “It’s not just the signature that is painful,” Brulé says. “To track where the approval is at, if it’s on paper or an email, you can’t track it.”
Pratt & Whitney ramped up its use of the WEBCON BPS low-code platform, which first got introduced to the engine maker via a plant based in Poland. Brulé says the pace of change in technology can be too fast at times for companies and their IT departments to absorb, with details and institutional knowledge not always getting where it is needed. “It’s not just about throwing more money, more people at all of this,” he says. “Companies need to put in place agile, DT (digital technology) organizations where the pace at which they can deliver things is at least as fast as the market evolves.”
When companies cannot keep pace, backlogs in delivery can lead to the business and internal customers moving on to other products and services, he says. “Speed becomes key.” There is a catch though. Complexities might arise as companies innovate, which does not go well with speed especially when evolving processes and training personnel. “Organizations need to put themselves in a place where things are much simpler to build and deliver,” Brulé says.
This is particularly crucial, he says, when trying to clear approvals for the replacement of resources, for example. Such bureaucracy can become nightmarish if requests are submitted regarding an application that took years to develop. “You need to find ways to deliver those things in a simple way,” he says.
Migrating such tasks to a web form should be easy enough, Brulé says, but some of Pratt & Whitney’s processes resided within the institutional knowledge of longtime staffers. Trying to modernize such processes can create headaches as that knowledge is not immediately passed along. This can delay projects, he says.
“With a tool like WEBCON, situations where a simple project becomes a coding of an application that takes forever -- they don’t happen anymore,” he says. The platform’s framework brings together information needed to speed up the process and product release. There is a module tailored for veteran end users, Brulé says, where their institutional knowledge is uploaded to help developers save time.
Using the WEBCON platform fit with regulatory demands Pratt & Whitney must adhere to, Brulé says. With some of its business devoted to military manufacturing, Pratt & Whitney must meet Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification requirements for defense contractors.
Pratt & Whitney is not foisting all of its IT work on WEBCON’s platform, but the company sees ways to be more efficient through its use. “Of course, you are not going to replace your ERP (enterprise resource planning) system with no-code, low-code applications,” Brulé says. Projects that at one time did not have a path forward under traditional approaches could have a chance to become feasible with low-code/no-code options, he says. “Now with reduced costs, projects that were pushed to the future can be more attractive.”