UTC Fire & Sec. engineers for growth

New global development center opens in Farmington, Conn.
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

FARMINGTON, Conn.--United Technologies, with UTC Fire & Security, has made a large and quick push into the security and life-safety market, purchasing Chubb in 2003 and Kidde and Lenel in 2005. To support that entry organically, the company has opened a new global engineering center here, to standardize engineering practices worldwide and to rapidly develop new products and services.
Tom Gillis, vice president of engineering for UTC Fire & Security, came to his position from UTC's research division. What he found there is that UTC's security business is largely in services, while the fire business is largely in products. "The challenge," he said, "is to develop services for fire and to develop products for the security business."
Sounds simple, right?
Well the $4.5 billion UTC Fire & Security does have the talents of about 1,000 engineers worldwide to call upon. The challenge, said Gillis, is "to bring operating excellence across the many different engineering groups, to bring a consistent process, improved quality and operating discipline to the fundamental work of engineering." The leadership for that process will reside here in Farmington and be implemented around the world.
"It's focusing on a lot of fundamentals," Gillis said. "It's reliability engineering, quality planning, designing a product that will flow well through manufacturing for a reasonable price that will be competitive in the market."
There is a catch, though: Finding new engineers. Like many manufacturers, "We've definitely experienced that it's difficult to recruit high-level technical talent," Gillis said. To combat this, UTC has implemented internships and engineering rotations that help them recruit the top minds coming out of places like Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Maryland. Also, Gillis feels UTC has an advantage in recruiting in that the company is more than just Fire & Security.
"What I love about UTC is its variety and depth," he said. If you don't like fire, maybe you can go work on helicopters or the aerospace program. The company also offers, he said, an aggressive education program, awarding people for continuing their eduction and adding to their skills base.
The biggest need, Gillis said, is in embedded process development engineering, particularly on the software side. But he said another skill set in demand is simply project management, finding people "who have the ability to work with customers and articulate trends in technical terms that engineers can then act upon and execute."
For instance, he said, "it's hard to write a spec for 'Make it pretty.'"