The suburb of Longueuil, across the St Lawrence from the historic heart of Montreal, is home to P&WC's million-square-foot Plant 1. Built in 1951 and completely modernised in 1993, it's a spotless, well organised place designed to keep production flowing and employees healthy and happy.

Though most of the workers there are French-speaking, and the management uniformly bilingual, you'll also hear the occasional word of Japanese. They include mudu ("zero waste") and andon. The latter, coined originally in Japan's car industry, signifies a system under which the immediate surrounding workforce and then ever more senior managers can be alerted in the event of a time-wasting problem on a moving production line.

Andon is being implemented at Longueuil because P&WC expects soon to be turning out PW600-family engines at rates not attained since the early 1980s, when PT6 production topped 3,000 a year. To do that the company is putting into place an automotive-style production line believed to be unique to aero-engine manufacturing.

"At the first sign of trouble - a missing component, for instance - a line worker can hit a button and start a process that warns everyone involved in keeping the line moving," says PW600 senior programme manager Keppel Bharath.

"First, a flashing light would get the attention of the team on the line, then successive levels of management would be paged until, 30min into the incident and at any time of the day or night, I would get to hear of it." Simultaneously, messages would go upstream to the line's just-in-time parts-supply warehouse and downstream to functions like production test and dispatch.


The line and its supply structure are designed to support a production rate of three engines a day - one unit completely assembled and into the test cell every 8h shift, round the clock, day in, day out.

The PW600 programme was designed from the start to make that possible, says business aviation vice-president Andrew Tanner.

P&WC's journey towards those objectives began at the initial design stage in the late 1990s. It was decided to maximise modularity - eliminating as far as possible the need to install single pieces on the line - and to involve suppliers much earlier in the programme.

When PW600 production is launched early next year, all supply roads will lead to the line, a surprisingly compact affair.

The attention that the company is paying to fast and efficient production is evident in the component and tool trays - "assembly floor sheets" (AFS) in P&WC terminology - arrayed on either side of the line. Each contains the exact quantity of components and tools needed to place a module on the engine being built up. Everything is set into a colour-coded recess, and the wrenches even have the correct torque pre-set to avoid damage from over-tightening.

P&WC already knows how the line is likely to work in practice because it has rehearsed the whole PW600 production and support process from end to end under a discipline called 3P (Production, Preparation, Process).

At this point PW&C is tooling up to turn out 1,000-1,500 PW600s a year. But if the VLJs indeed give rise to a brand-new, multi-thousand-aircraft market for air taxis, the men of Longueuil will be ready to do even better.

Source: Flight Daily News