The tech that keeps the wheels on an F1 racing team
Pics: CIO UK and Marussia F1
By Julian Goldsmith
1. Precision engineered racing
Marussia F1 is competing in this year's Formula 1 Grand Prix championship. A team of 180 people are dedicated to two cars and drivers for each race. Their aim is a podium position by 2014. They are supported by state-of-the-art technology both at the track-side and at the manufacturing base in Oxfordshire
2. Reliability is key
There are over 4,500 separate components that make up an F1 car. The vast majority are bespoke and designed by the individual team. The utmost care must be taken in their storage, transport and deployment if the car is to perform reliably on race day. Backmarkers on the grid have to be able to rely on the performance of the car just as much as the leaders, if they are to have a hope of moving up the field.
3. Bespoke components
Many of the components of the cars are specialised to the point of bearing no relation to road-car parts. Here, one of the Marussia team holds a clutch plate assembly. It's about a fifth of the size of road-use clutch and is only used when the car pulls away and comes to a stop. Parts like this are contantly being redesigned. Of the 4,500 components that make up the car, 30 per cent will be replaced at some point in the race season, by upgraded components.
4. A patchwork of data management
When he joined Marussia, head of operations Kevin Lee found a chaotic approach to managing the data around the design, manufacture and supply chain of the components that make up the car. He deployed an ERP system from Sage in 8 weeks. Nothing happens slowly in F1 and Lee had the experience to know that a certain level of data discipline was the norm behind other successful racing teams. Marussia had to follow that to have a chance of reaching its long-term goals
5. Knowledge management
The ERP system tracks the life of each component right from conception. Design specs that are marked out as the component takes shape on the CAD system form part of the database, so that when it is manufactured, it can be checked against them. Even before a part is made, a mock up can be made to test that parts will fit together.
6. Fine measurement
The attention to detail is staggering. When parts are received by Marussia, they are put into quaranteen to be checked before they are stored. Here a component is fixed to a jig to be measured by a sensor, to the margins of microns, to make sure it conforms to the specifications of the CAD image on the screen behind it. All of these measurements are put into the ERP system.
7. Boken silos
Technicians at the facility in the UK check each component when it comes in from the manufacturer. If it doesn't conform to the specification, a flag is raised in the ERP system which links the checking process with the designers and buyers in the office. The ERP system also manages invoice processing, so the whole organisation uses it in some form.
8. Everything has a number
The ERP system holds data not only on components for use in the cars, but the moulds used to shape the car's carbon-fibre body. They are also calibrated by Marussia's F1 industry-standard sensor equipment. A sizeable proportion of the ERP database is made up of these moulds, which are crafted to optimise the car's aerodynamic performance
9. Big number cruncher
Marussia owns a powerful Computational Flow Dynamics (CFD) analysis system. It is used to compute the effects of design changes on the car's aerodynamic performance.The power of this computer, about 60 teraflops, is seldom found outside military use.
10. Mini car
Marussia has a deal with McClaren to use its wind tunnel for a few weeks a year. A half-size mock-up is made to test the design. All of the components in this mock-up are carefully tracked and monitored by the ERP system, because they will be used to construct the full-size components on the car.
11. Not a coffee machine
Many of the mock-up components are made using this 3D printer which builds up layers of resin to create the desired shape.
12. Matter converter
Any componenet from wheel-nuts to foot-pedals (which are tailored to the individual driver) can be mocked-up using the 3D printer
13. Track-side to drawing-board
On the track-side Marussia uses sophisticated car monitoring systems to make sure it is operating at optimum levels. These systems are integrated with the ERP system so that data on specific components can be channelled back to designers working on the next iteration and stores staff ready supply a replacement.
14. Racing zones
The ERP system recognises a number of parts zones. The UK-based stores department and parts quaranteen are both separate zones. So is the race team, which holds a store of parts whether they are in Melbourne or Bahrain. The cars themselves are also separate zones.
15. Race culture
After each race, the cars return to the Oxfordshire HQ to be completely stripped down. Marussia has a complete knowledge of the state of each component and replacements or upgrades are ready to be fitted as the cars arrive. Race discipline is observed at the track-side, in the HQ and within the team's computer systems.