There was a period of time when machinist Arthur Weemas stepped away from a machining career. Things change quickly.
"I was out of machining for about 15 years and when I came here and started looking at this stuff, it was kind of overwhelming to start with, it isn't what I was used to," Weemas said. "It makes me feel good that Pratt & Whitney is putting money into the company."
At Pratt & Whitney's Columbus Forge facility, Weemas is surrounded by dramatic change. He is working in a cell dedicated to machining the root of a fan blade called a "NEO" singlet on a PurePower® 1100G-JM engine. It's just one example of the multimillion dollar investment the company is making in state-of-the-art technology to enhance production. In fact, Columbus has more than 200 capital improvement projects currently underway.
"People see the new equipment coming in almost daily, they see the investment, and I'll say they're very excited," said Keith Bagley, general manager of Columbus Forge.
Proof of that excitement can be found in the smile of William Pollock. The 31-year-old Columbus Forge veteran is putting the finishing touches on a new robotic multi-stage cell that takes raw material and begins the preform shape of commercial airfoils.
"The biggest benefit out of this is the consistency of the process and the control of the process in taking all of the human error out of it," Pollock said.
The list of investments could fill a runway. There are heat-treat upgrades, new sonic inspection machines and plans to install a massive new isothermal press. Even older machines are getting new upgrades, new tooling and new software to improve overall efficiency and quality for both mature engine programs and the NGPF.
"This geared turbofan, they are selling a lot of those, they are selling a lot of engines and stuff, that's great for the future of my kids and our families," said machinist Marcus Webb.
All of these capital expenditures have been in motion long before the landmark February announcement of expansion at the Columbus facility. And even with so many new machines on the floor, one thing hasn't changed – the importance of the people who operate them.
"At the end of the day, the people are what make this company great, and we are going to be dependent on the people of Pratt & Whitney for years to come," Bagley said.
People like Arthur Weemas, who stepped away from machining for 15 years. Now, instead of stepping into a sea of change – he's officially part of it.
"They got big plans for us," Weemas said.