Airbus disclosed on January 20 that it has delivered the first aircraft in its A320neo family of narrow body jetliners to Lufthansa. The “neo” designation stands for “new engine option,” and in the case of the Lufthansa planes that means a revolutionary geared turbofan engine made by the Pratt & Whitney unit of United Technologies. The PurePower geared turbofan Pratt has brought to market is a gamechanger –15% less fuel consumption, 50% less emissions, 75% less noise. It is already shaking up the market for short-to-medium haul transports. But in order to transform the jetliner business, Pratt & Whitney first had to transform itself. It did that by stressing core competencies and lean manufacturing while relying much more heavily on a rigorously managed supply chain. The story of how Pratt changed to remain on top in the engine business is an inspirational lesson about the future of manufacturing in America. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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