Improving UTAS Supplier Operations
Maureen Fitzgerald
January 31, 2018
The digital transformation of manufacturing is forcing industrial companies to get smart. A trend toward “Smart Operations” has become an industry-wide priority.

UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS) is among the world's leading manufacturers of advanced aerospace and defense products, with over 40,000 employees and $14.5 billion in net sales in 2016. From landing gear systems to cabin seating, UTAS touches virtually every part of an airplane. But managing such a business requires coordination and logistics on a staggering scale.

“With only 30% of UTAS supplier's currently committing to 100% of their material requests, there was a significant opportunity to improve material availability forecasting,” said John Kershaw, Director, UTAS Business Systems.

UTAS and its thousands of suppliers around the world rely on a digital platform to communicate critical information, such as delivery schedules, to ensure products are delivered on time and on budget.

We went straight to the users — in this case, our suppliers and internal stakeholders — and identified an opportunity to re-envision UTC Aerospace Systems' entire supply chain ecosystem.

“There's no overstating how critical the platform is,” says Richard Van Galen, UTC Aerospace Systems' director of business process management. “However, it took an astounding 27 clicks for a supplier to tell UTC whether they were able to commit or not, resulting in low visibility and high levels of frustration for everyone involved.”

To improve the lines of communication and the platform's overall efficiency, Van Galen and UT Digital looked far beyond a simple UX redesign.

“We went straight to the users — in this case, our suppliers and internal stakeholders — and identified an opportunity to re-envision UTC Aerospace Systems' entire supply chain ecosystem,” said Van Galen.

UT Digital hand-selected a cross-functional team from across the UTAS supply ecosystem to work on this project - everyone from account managers to front-line technicians, to suppliers from India to Illinois — to carefully observe and gather insights from those who used the digital platform the most.

By working in collaboration with UT Digital, we arrived at a longer-term strategy and solution much faster. The software development team was a critical enabler to us moving fast and focusing on the bigger picture. We would have lost a significant opportunity if we just focused on the platform.

Team members were quickly able to validate learnings and begin ideating solutions that were less about user interfaces and more about how different systems and processes interacted with one another.

“We learned so much in that dialogue and discovery process,” Van Galen said. “We now had a far more robust picture of all the interactions our suppliers had in the chain and how to go about making those interactions better, more connected and impactful.”

“By working in collaboration with UT Digital, we arrived at a longer-term strategy and solution much faster,” said Kershaw. “The software development team was a critical enabler to us moving fast and focusing on the bigger picture. We would have lost a significant opportunity if we just focused on the platform.”

In just 10 weeks, UTAS and UT Digital aligned the entire supply ecosystem around the needs of its platform users. The resulting platform designs put UTAS on proactive footing — where it can meet, and even anticipate, its suppliers' needs. They can address the future before it happens.

Instead of 27 clicks for a supplier to commit, it now takes 2 clicks. This directly impacts the bottom line, saving over 102K hours of time across the supply base, freeing suppliers to focus on key parts and order fulfillment. The streamlined process contributes to a 4% On Time Delivery improvement across UTAS.

“By going in with a broader focus, we came away with a far richer sense of how to improve supplier relationships — and keep those relationships strong,” said Van Galen. This is just the beginning. The UTAS team is rolling the new platform out to a handful of suppliers to gather feedback. Based on the feedback the teams get, they will iterate and evolve the product accordingly. The platform was architected in a way that it can be re-used and leveraged across the other businesses. A great benefit for everyone.

“This was a great targeted quick win, with tremendous benefits for employees, suppliers and customers,” said Kershaw. “We are excited to test our approach, increase our user base and learn and adapt as we go – all of which is a new way of working for all of us.”


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