© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
In addition to the reporting by Connecticut Public Radio that appears below, Connecticut Public Television has produced two video series that focus on manufacturing in our state:Made in Connecticut profiles some of Connecticut's local manufacturing businesses, from high-tech to handmade.Making the Future introduces us to some Connecticut youth pursuing careers in manufacturing and the trades. This series was produced as part of the American Graduate: Getting to Work project with support form the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Pratt and Whitney Unveils New Assembly Line

Harriet Jones
UTC CEO Greg Hayes unveils the revamped Middletown production facility

Pratt and Whitney has completely changed the way it builds its engines. The company unveiled a revamped production line at its Middletown plant, which it says will help it keep up with a huge increase in demand. 

The engines under construction were the only things that used to stay still at Pratt’s sprawling Middletown complex. “We used to walk on the assembly floor a lot, just delivering parts, trying to get some tooling,” said Jessica Duke, an assembly technician at the plant. Now, she said, it’s completely different. “The transition allowed us to work together with the same department with the same engine.” 

Credit Pratt & Whitney
The new horizontal engine assembly line improves efficiency and ergonomics.

What Pratt has done is to take a leaf out of a very old playbook -- that of Henry Ford, who invented the moving assembly line. Instead of technicians buzzing around a stationary engine, now the workers stay still and the engine moves down the assembly line, and it can be raised, lowered and rotated as the technicians need.

Ted Sluice is operations manager at Middletown. He said there’s a reason this has never been done before in jet engine production. "It’s not like an automobile - it’s a very specialized machine," he said. "And unless you have very, very high volume, the investments required to have a line like this just don’t make sense."

And it’s that volume equation that’s about to change for Pratt. The company expects its output to more than double over the next five years, as demand from commercial airlines soars, and military work also ramps up. Pratt has a backlog of more than 6,200 orders for its PurePower Geared Turbofan engine. Middletown will also be one of the facilities that produces the F135 engine for the military's next generation jet, the F35 joint strike fighter.

The company has declined to reveal exactly how much it spent to build this state of the art facility, but the fact it’s here in Connecticut caused the CEO of United Technologies, Greg Hayes to reflect back to an offhand remark he made some years ago that has been hard to live down. “I was at an investor conference in New York and I said, anyplace but Connecticut is low cost," he told the crowd at the ribbon cutting for the new facility, "and I think I took my lumps in the press for about six years for that statement. What’s nice to say as I stand up here today - it’s nice to be proven wrong.”

The state of Connecticut, which has allowed Pratt’s parent UTC to exercise more than $400 million in tax credits to make investments like this, will hope that remains wrong.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content