Pratt & Whitney’s Eddy: Connecticut Ecosystem a ‘National Asset’
In its near 100-year history, East Hartford-based Pratt & Whitney has become one of the world’s leading aerospace manufacturers.
“Every second of every day, a Pratt & Whitney powered aircraft of some kind is either taking off or landing somewhere in the world,” company president Shane Eddy said at CBIA’s 2024 Economic Summit + Outlook Jan. 18 in Hartford.
“We think about technology, we think about how the engine has evolved, and it’s hard not to be impressed.
“But we think about the technology, there’s an equally important part. Those are the factories, it’s the industrial base that is able to produce technology at that scale.
“And that is something no other country in the world can do.”
Eddy said that’s the core of Pratt & Whitney’s business in Connecticut.
And that has led to an entire ecosystem and industrial complex in the state.
“It’s a national asset, what we have here,” said Shane Eddy. “It would take generations to replicate, if it could even be replicated.
“But it’s also fragile, and so we’ve got to keep the conditions strong.”
Pratt & Whitney has 11,000 employees in Connecticut, and the company’s impact includes more than one billion dollars in annual supply chain spending in the state.
Eddy credited the state for implementing, and strengthening fiscal guardrails and providing stability for businesses like Pratt & Whitney.
“All the comments about creating the conditions, not only for Pratt & Whitney to continue investing, but for the ecosystem around Pratt & Whitney and our products, are spot on,” he said.
Eddy said that from the pandemic, to the wars in Eastern Europe and Israel, a lot has changed in the world in recent years.
And, he said a lot has changed for his company as well.
In April 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, what was then United Technologies spun off Otis Elevators and Carrier and merged with Raytheon, becoming RTX.
“It was an interesting time to completely overhaul the company,” Eddy said.
Eddy credited RTX CEO Greg Hayes for leading the transition.
Hayes, who is stepping down in May, will be succeeded by Connecticut native and former Pratt & Whitney president Chris Calio.
“What we ended up with at RTX is the most advanced aerospace and defense system provider there is in the world,” he said.
Investing in the Future
Eddy said that Pratt & Whitney has invested a billion dollars in its factories in Connecticut, and plans to continue that investment.
On the military side, Eddy noted that they are “sole sourced on key fighter mobility, tanker, and bomber programs.”
He highlighted the success of their 5th Generation fighter engines, which power the F-19 and F-35 aircraft with stealth capability.
“This stealth capability is going to be even more important for the next generation fighter,” Eddy said.
“So while we’re delivering this at scale, and while we’re upgrading this program, we’re also investing in 6th Generation technology for the next generation fighter for the future.”
Along with the success of the military business, Eddy said the backbone of Pratt & Whitney’s commercial growth will be the growing commercial aviation industry.
The company started delivering the geared turbofan engine in 2016.
“I think it’s safe to say they’re the next generation of single aisle,” said Eddy.
The GTF engines run more efficiently and burn less fuel with lower CO2 emissions, and noise footprint than previous engines.
“When you talk about sustainability, this is our first major step in a number of years,” Eddy said.
“It’s also the engine that brought Pratt & Whitney really strongly back into commercial aviation.”
Eddy said sustainability is a focus for the company moving forward.
Pratt & Whitney joined an industry-wide commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
While they are developing electric and hybrid engines, Eddy said it’s going to be a while before that is produced at scale.
He said the key to sustainability will be sustainable aviation fuels.
“The total available infrastructure to produce sustainable aviation fuel today is less than one percent of the needs of the industry,” he said.
“So this is really about scaling the production of sustainable aviation fuel.”
As Pratt & Whitney grows its business in Connecticut, Eddy said the company is investing in its next generation workforce.
“Ensuring that we’ve got the right skills, the knowledge and ability coming into the workforce, I think is incredibly important,” he said.
Eddy said that Pratt & Whitney has developed long-term relationships with organizations like the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology and schools like Goodwin University and UConn to develop that workforce.
He said they’re also having conversations about starting that development for younger students in grade school and high school.
Eddy said that it’s a little easier for a company like Pratt & Whitney to fill roles.
But he said their goal is to create an ecosystem that benefits everyone in the Connecticut supply chain.
“There are a lot of medium, and in particular small businesses that are part of this ecosystem,” he said.
“And we’ve got to make sure that that pipeline is full for everybody involved.”
Productivity & Growth
Eddy said that as Pratt & Whitney grows, they are also putting an emphasis on productivity, in part due to inflation.
“How we’re dealing with inflation, both in terms of our people and wage and then in terms of our productivity, I think is incredibly important as we’re addressing this growth.”
Eddy said that to improve productivity, they work with employees to help eliminate waste from their jobs.
“Our job as managers and leaders is to understand from them where there’s waste in their job,” he said.
“The people doing the work know it better than anyone else.”
Eddy said about half the work done in their factories has a level of automation to it.
They are also using things like analytics to help them reduce costs.
“We’re dipping our toe, I would say, in the water of machine learning and artificial intelligence,” he said.
“And using that to drive forecasting models, help us make sure we’re getting the right signals out to the supply base.”
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