Five complete sets of track equipment; 21 races across the world; 7,500 unique components in a car; 30,000 design modifications in the course of a season and 40,000 kilos of air and sea freight sent to every location: Formula One® racing is full of staggering numbers and daunting logistical challenges.
Race-specific parts are required for each event in the calendar, yet sometimes there is only one week between events and performance testing at each track is limited by the regulations of the sport. According to Matt Cadieux, chief information officer at Red Bull Racing, the biggest challenge is the pace of change. “We have an aggressive, nonstop and increasingly complex development cycle before, during and after the season. In addition, the volume of design changes goes up year on year, with our designers making up to1,000 changes per week between races.”
Red Bull Racing thrives on such challenges, with regular podium places and a record of repeated triumph in both Driver and Constructor Championships. Fundamental to success is a collaborative platform made up of NX™ software and Teamcenter® software from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens PLM Software. NX and Teamcenter have been the digital backbone of the team since it was formed in 2005 and Red Bull Racing continues to add users, integrate new tools and refine processes. There are now over 500 PLM users.
“Our accomplishments stem from having the right tools,” Cadieux continues. “With NX and Teamcenter, we can effectively manage logistical challenges, increased design complexity, the growing number of parts and the thousands of engineering changes per year. Speed is what counts in our sport and we gain speed at several levels: through personal efficiency, configuration of tools and our capacity for collaboration.”
There is one single point of entry through Active Workspace for Teamcenter, through which all users are able to find the specific information they requiredsd, without the need to spend time accessing various systems to look for data. Dan Watkins, head of PLM, explains: “Active Workspace allows us to streamline the user interface, configuring it specifically to individual roles and providing users with aggregated data from across multiple systems. This speeds up the process of development collaboration.”
Customized configuration enables smooth integration with other tools and streamlined workflows. The design release process used to be managed by email; email is now used for notifications containing direct links to design changes with Teamcenter managing the process and all relevant information. These are accessible via Teamcenter Visualization, through which users can view 2D and 3D data. “We have minimized the clicks required to authorize and release parts to manufacturing,” says Cadieux. “There is no manual authorization: there are no unnecessary steps, only those that add value. Likewise, there is no paperwork.”
The emphasis on performance enhancement generates a high volume of updates, and their implementation requires a disciplined development process that is both efficient and predictable. All this has to be achieved during the days between races and coordinated on a global scale. The key is to iterate new ideas, select the solutions that promise the most improvement and develop them virtually as far as possible before committing to manufacturing the physical parts.
Working within the Formula One® resource restrictions is simply another challenge to be addressed. The regulations limit physical testing at the track, headcount versus external spend, and also the total amount of aerodynamics activity, allowing the teams to decide the split between computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and wind tunnel testing. This all further drives the need for very efficient virtual processes once there is correlation and confidence that the virtual processes match the physical testing done on rigs, in a wind tunnel and on the track.
Interestingly, even if extensive physical tests were allowed, such methods would be too slow to cope with the rate of innovation required to remain competitive. In addition, the introduction of garage curfews reduced the time available to assemble, upgrade and repair cars. In the majority of cases, the first time that the upgrades come together is at the racetrack. It is therefore essential that the pit crew is able to assemble the car easily and efficiently the first time.“The front wing is the first part of the car to meet air and our aim is to micromanage every aspect of airflow,” explains Cadieux. “The front wing is an array of surfaces, all bonded together, which creates the effect of multiple front wings. With extremely complicated geometry, involving many angles and winglets, every little surface has a purpose.”
Watkins adds: “Eighty separate elements make up the front wing assembly, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. We need to manufacture about 800 different components to create a whole new front wing. These include patterns and molds for composite panels, jigs for assembly and jigs for testing and performance compliance. Our PLM tools enable us to work efficiently and quickly to ensure that we get components to the car in time to race.”
Teamcenter Visualization is used to view the full car and all its components, particularly if the car has to be dismantled in order to incorporate a new or improved part that arrives fresh from the factory in time for the race. Engineers and mechanics, who sometimes see a part for the first time at the track, have real-time access to NX so that they can refer to engineering data to gain insight on performance. In addition, they can enter feedback for potential improvement at the next race. “Improving the quality of our business processes is just as important as improving the performance of the car, and our Siemens PLM infrastructure enables us to grow and evolve,” explains Al Peasland, head of technical partnerships at Red Bull Racing.