Featured case: Evaluating the Cognitive Analytics Frontier

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The case

Chad KartchnerWho – the protagonist

Chad Kartchner, Senior Manager of Marketing and Product Management at Honeywell Aerospace (HA).


HA is a leading global manufacturer of aviation, including aircraft engines, electric systems, thermal control systems, and cockpit systems and displays.

HA also produces turbochargers and automotive software solutions that improve the performance, efficiency and security of passenger cars and commercial vehicles.



Chad was pondering how technology could transform the way aircraft were maintained.

The sheer volume of parts and the time-sensitive nature of repairs in the aviation industry made it complicated to identify problems and address them quickly.

Chad was considering how cognitive analytics, an artificial intelligence term referring to the use of computer models and algorithms to stimulate human through self-learning systems, could revolutionise the process.


It was in the fall of 2014 when Chad was contemplating a major change in direction for HA and the aviation industry.


HA is based in Phoenix, Arizona, but boasts 40,000 employees around the world.

Key quote

“Typically, when an airplane was grounded, technicians were under intense time pressure, and for safety reasons, some operators required all fault codes to be cleared before a plane could take off again.” – an excerpt of the case study that illustrates the need for technological assistance for technicians. 

What next?

Chad knew that these emerging technologies had the power to overhaul existing support systems for aviation technicians.

But would HA be better off building their own system or taking advantage of emerging cognitive computing technologies?

Interested in finding out more?

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Evaluating the Cognitive Analytics Frontier
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Teaching note
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The author

Adam Pah and Alanna Lazarowich

Adam discusses student interest in machine learning and AI, case writing challenges and why field research was the best way forward on this particular case.

Student interaction

Adam said: “I love the class discussion, not only because it becomes very vocal but also because it reveals many different prior experiences among the students.

“Recently, I’ve started having the students split into groups based on their belief of the best decision that Chad should make, and collectively present a position that the group thinks will bring converts to their side. So far, these position statements have been passionately and incisively argued and bring a greater depth to the students’ experience of the problem.”

Student interaction

The rise of machine learning and AI

Adam continued: “There has been a surge of interest in pursuing careers in technology at Kellogg28% of the Class of 2018 went into the tech industry. As such, machine learning and AI have become important parts of the knowledge toolkit.

“Over 150 students take my course each year, which is an overview of the entire topic, and even more take the domain-specific courses that other professors offer. Not only are students exploring coursework in these areas but they are actively engaging with alumni and entrepreneurs who are innovating in this space through co-curricular activities like lunch and learns and site visits.”

Catering for all

He added: “My real interest was to find an interesting case study that was rooted in manufacturing issues.

“What I typically see if I just read what’s available online are pieces that either focus on AI at tech companies (FAANG) or direct customer applications (i.e. recommendation engines).

“The reality is that there is a wide variety of processes that AI can help improve at any company; what I wanted to highlight was one novel application that students from a variety of industries could potentially relate to and, hopefully, draw on in their own future to think about the vast potential of AI in any business process.”

Case writing challenges

He commented: “I think the most challenging aspect of case writing is what produces the most enjoyable part – namely, trying to design a story that, once read and interpreted, produces an engaging classroom experience.

“The writing process is a difficult balance, between neutrally outlining a clear story and not compromising the details that provide the ‘meat’ for students to build their own opinions from. Just like baking, it’s hard to know that you’ve got it right until you experience the final product of the in-class discussion.”

Benefits of field researchBenefits of field research

Adam concluded: “A field research case allowed me to show the students that the application of AI outside of web-based companies isn’t theoretical – there is a constantly growing number of companies across multiple sectors that are innovating just like the case describes.

“My hope is that the combination of the topic and the fact that it’s field research spurs students to truly internalise the idea that AI can be applied in nearly any industry or position to improve business processes.”

About the author

Adam Pah is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management and Organisations at Kellogg School of Management.
e a-pah@kellogg.northwestern.edu

Alanna Lazarowich is a Senior Director of Kellogg’s Architectures of Collaboration Initiative.


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