Client Story: Aircraft Manufacturing Company 2018-11-08T16:17:10-05:00
Making the Complex Simple
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Aircraft Engine Manufacturer

This aircraft engine manufacturer is among the top aircraft engine suppliers, and offers engines for commercial and military aircraft.

  • US $20 Billion in revenues

  • 40,000 employees

  • Has manufacturing plants and aircraft engine service centers in dozens of countries

The Challenge

A major aircraft engine manufacturing company had just put thousands of hours of work into a designing a new production system that would affect all of its manufacturing plants. With dozens of plants spread over 20 countries, all working towards its $25 billion in annual revenue, the operalization of this new system would have a major impact on the company’s future.


While the manufacturing company had finalized every detail of its production system, the Subject Matter Experts who had created the production system had spent hours trying to put together a PowerPoint presentation that best represented their new system. Despite their best efforts, the presentation was ineffective, and they concluded that they did not have the tools to convey their production system in a clear and engaging way. Not only was the information they needed to convey extremely complex, but the amount of information varied from each stakeholder in their supply chain. Some stakeholders, like plant managers, needed wide and far-reaching information, while others, like production-line employees, needed the information to narrow and specific.


The manufacturing company asked Applied Learning to develop with them a visual narrative complete with not only clear communication, but also flexibility between stakeholders. These rigorous demands were accompanied by an urgent deadline; the company had already scheduled roll-out meetings with plant managers and other key decision-makers within the supply chain.

The Approach

The Applied Learning team used its background in story development and visual learning to work through the creation of visual concepts for the manufacturing company. First, it began by facilitating a series of working sessions with the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who “owned” the new production system. During these working sessions, the SMEs wrestled with ideas that they were not yet fully comfortable describing or discussing, and the collaborative sessions helped them to articulate those ideas. By using creative exercises and having participants engage in visualizing concepts, the cross-functional team of SMEs were facilitated through conversational inquiry to see each other’s views and eventually come to a consensus. By the end of the working sessions, the SMEs had a stronger collective understanding of how to articulate their new production system, and what their key messages were.


By facilitating the SME working sessions, the Applied Learning team had a good grasp of the production system and in a parallel process, began developing visual narratives. The manufacturing company provided feedback on these visual narratives in an iterative design process. First, subject matter experts provided both data and conceptual feedback.  The iterative creative process aligned the SMEs around a since concept.  Once the visual concept met their standards for accuracy and complexity, the subject matter experts moved forward to receive feedback from executives and peers within the supply chain. From those meetings, the team was able to identify what parts of the visual concept was working well and what parts required further clarification. The team also used these meetings to learn what they could do to make the visual concept and the storytelling experience as engaging as possible.

The Result

The manufacturing company was excited about the visual narrative because it worked for all the unique facets of the company’s needs: it was flexible, engaging, data-based, and eminently understandable. It provided a shared model for the new production system that every stakeholder in the system could understand and rally around. Large printouts were placed on plant walls, smaller versions were posted on cubicle walls, and digital copies reinforced the message.


Not only did this visual narrative skillfully communicate the company’s new production system, it also helped the company another way. The development of the visual had given a great collaborative learning experience to every executive, every subject matter expert, and every manager who participated in its creation. Even the people who had created the production system benefited from being forced to articulate their vision in a cohesive way to people who were learning about it for the very first time. With the facilitating expertise of the Applied Learning team, this was all accomplished with minimum conflict and maximum effective communication and collaboration.

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