After seeing Button career round the Monte Carlo track at breakneck speeds, you’d be forgiven for missing the link between this kind of excitement and IT – but the link is there and it’s a big one. B·A·R’s mySAP All-in-One solution touches almost every process involved in developing, building and testing these impressive cars – from design release, engineering changes and manufacturing to inventory control and accounting. After two and a half years of using their mySAP All-in-One system, the B·A·R team wouldn’t be without it.
“We never thought we’d get to this,” said James Turner, business manager of the official Formula 1 team, Lucky Strike B·A·R Honda. “SAP now gives us complete control over all of our business processes – from design control through building, testing, and developing the components and the cars in the weeks and months running up to the season. It gives us all the visibility we need across all functions, with reliable information all the time.”
The importance of this level of integration and transparency becomes apparent when you look at the pace and complexity of B·A·R ‘s development, design, and test cycles – and given the short lead times between each race in a competition like Formula 1. B·A·R builds 8 cars a season, each car containing around 3000 components, which are continuously under review and undergoing redesign to ensure top performance. The company effectively strips down and rebuilds three car configurations for every single race and test. B·A·R ’s bill of materials (BOM) database might hold up to 10,000 parts at any time in a given year – with 95 percent of these parts either brand new or built from scratch in-house.
Clearly speed is of the essence both on and off track and keeping an eye on stock levels is imperative. Each part produced by B·A·R goes through a complex design sequence from R&D to design and aerodynamic testing before it’s shipped to the race teams around the world. Logistically this is a major challenge and having stock available in the right place at the right time is critical. At the height of the pre-season run-up and during racing, there could be more than 50 engineering changes in one day and the parts have to be there on demand. For example, B·A·R undertook four different exhaust designs after just six races last season.
Then there’s the process of ‘lifing’, which brings its own issues to the table. Lifing basically involves tracing the history of critical components – around 400 of the 3000 components used in B·A·R ’s cars are deemed critical and race engineers need access to their complete ‘life history’ at all times. In addition some 800 parts have a kilometer-based life expectancy that has to be recorded to ensure optimum performance and safety. During strip-downs and rebuilds, engineers have to be able to make instant decisions on which components to use based on their track record. This includes which cars the components have come from, the drivers of these cars, which circuits have been covered, and the kind of testing the components have undergone.
This is where SAP comes in – and Ascent Technology, the SAP-certified SMB reseller chosen to deliver B·A·R ’s new software. Ascent configured a tailor-made mySAP All-in-One system for B·A·R based on templates similar to those used for its aerospace and defense customers. The system centers on role-based dashboards covering all of the information B·A·R employees need in their everyday work and integrating departments so that changes are real-time and instant.
The multi-level system touches everyone from the team principal and technical director to staff in R&D, production, or finance. This is a fully integrated single-source system that tracks and shares detailed product information across the organization from initial concept through to product obsolescence. And it’s now integral to B·A·R ’s business according to David France, B·A·R IT manager. “SAP is now a key component of how B·A·R operates.”
It’s a long way from the days of oil-stained mechanics wielding spanners and car jacks. We’re talking high tech here. B·A·R ’s Formula 1 car is now built virtually on SAP before work even begins in the factory. At the track side, just one engineer armed with a laptop manages all components for the car build from lifing to spares management via a link to the SAP server at the factory headquarters in the UK. This would never have been possible pre-SAP and is significant when you consider that other front-running F1 teams use up to 5 people for the same processes.
And things run just as smoothly when the cars come back in after each race. As the next Grand Prix approaches, the B·A·R team won’t be taking time out to polish the hubcaps of their B·A·R Honda 006. The team is already engaged in a frenetic sequence of redesign, strip-downs, parts replacement and re-builds that are all managed and monitored at speed in mySAP All-in-One – and for the most part automatically. B·A·R Honda did an impressive job fine-tuning their car to ride the kerbs at Barcelona and Monte Carlo and the team will now be concentrating on adapting the B·A·R Honda 006 to the demands of the next track – with SAP behind them all the way.
Visibility is paramount to these kinds of high-pace processes and has improved dramatically since the SAP software was implemented – with a gratifying knock-on effect on efficiency. Less time is spent manufacturing parts that are surplus to requirements, the build department has a better handle on stock levels and the lifing team can build a more accurate virtual test car showing where lifed and non-lifed components have been used. And if a component fails, mySAP All-in-One can easily track its history, providing invaluable information to engineers so that other batches of similar materials can be checked. The system also signals the requirement for alternative parts, enables B·A·R staff to check against stores, and triggers new production or procurement.
mySAP All-in-One also supports the inevitably frequent design changes, with adjustments reaching the car faster and more efficiently. And most importantly, the company no longer relies on its workforce to mastermind the complex interaction between departments and ‘fire-fighting’ required to get the cars on the road each season and keep them there. The system takes care of it. As B·A·R business development support manager Alan Bendy comments, “Time is freed up for people to do what they do best, with everything lifed up, engineering change managed quickly and efficiently, the business kept aware of costs and managers informed rapidly so they can make good decisions.”
So Lucky Strike B·A·R Honda can concentrate on what’s important – winning that race. And with Button, Sato and mySAP All-in-One in the driving seat, how can they go wrong?