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Low Code Accelerates Digital Transformation at Pratt & Whitney

Sept. 20, 2021
Remote work intensified the need for a comprehensive digital transformation at the aircraft engine manufacturer.

When PrattWhitney shifted a significant percent of its workers to remote status, it immediately recognized the importance of embarking on an accelerated digital transformation to align its daily processes with the new reality. 

The key to digital transformation success for the manufacturer of aircraft and helicopter engines and auxiliary power? Remaining nimble, explains Jocelyn Brulé, Pratt & Whitney’s digital technology manager.  “Once it starts, digital transformation happens continuously, and a company like P&W is constantly evolving. When you combine that pace with perennial budget and resource challenges, we need tools that help us deliver simple, robust and secure solutions both quickly and cost-effectively,” says Brulé. “And we need to be able to adjust and scale those solutions over time. It’s the combination of many incremental changes that result in true transformation, and we need to remain agile so we can continuously adapt to changing requirements and expectations as we go.”

As with many companies struggling to find their way in the new digital world, the development team had difficulty keeping up  with the company's required transformation pace. “Development is not something you do once and then it is finished. By the time you deliver a few projects, more projects will be needed as the digital world is in constant evolution,” says Brulé. “Budget and/or resources always seem too low to deliver all the requested projects as well as supporting the existing landscapes.” 

Even with increased budgets and resources, creating the right level of cost-effective digital transformation capacity remains a challenge, explains Brulé. In addition, solutions proposed by the development team too often do not make business sense. “Between the user-developed Excel solutions and the typical development project, the cost difference is so wide that very few projects get done. Adding more money and resources is not the only way,” he says. “Development needs to think differently so it can deliver simple, robust and secure solutions 10 to 100 times faster and cheaper. Only the sum of many initiatives will really transform a company. Low code solutions are one element of the puzzle to accelerate transformation velocity and create enough capacity to keep up the pace.

Leveraging low code

Which technologies surface as the most meaningful throughout the digital transformation process can vary significantly from business to business. For P&W, the focus has been on technologies that enabled faster process re-engineering, simpler solution delivery, faster iterations, reduce time, people, functional roles involved in solution delivery.

According to Brulé, low code has proven instrumental at P&W, specifically WEBCON. “We tried many similar approaches with Documentum, SharePoint and other 3rd party add-ons. For simple business processes, we could deliver good solutions with those technologies. But as soon as requirements became more complex, costs and lead times were exploding because of the custom code needed to deliver appropriate simple solutions,” he says. “With the deep toolbox provided by the framework, we are able to achieve a lot more of those complex requirements without any coding. This allowed us to cut down on project delivery lead-times and costs by a huge factor. With the digital transformation team expertise ramping up and reusability of previous solutions, our internal customers are delighted and the throughput continues to grow.”

The first challenge Brulé is addressing is the replacement of hundreds of legacy paper forms. With most employees working remotely, getting paper forms signed quickly became a tedious endeavor. “Many of those paper-based business processes were highly complex and could never justify a digitalization project. We are now able to cost-effectively deliver these solutions. The need to print-sign-scan-send as attachment (and hope nothing gets lost), has been replaced by workflows in a database,” he says. “Built into the framework comes automated task tracking, and reminder and process dashboards that provide the necessary building blocks to then allow our users to optimize their business processes. So not only is the development team better equipped to deliver solutions, our internal customers quickly find opportunities to improve their own processes because of the newly gained visibility.”

About the Author

Peter Fretty | Technology Editor

As a highly experienced journalist, Peter Fretty regularly covers advances in manufacturing, information technology, and software. He has written thousands of feature articles, cover stories, and white papers for an assortment of trade journals, business publications, and consumer magazines.

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