Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pit Stop Strategy and Management in F1 Racing

Speed, technology and affluence are the three words that characterize motor sport and the most popular among motor sports is F1 racing. Formula One cars are considered to be the fastest circuit-racing cars in the world. Formula One cars race at high speeds – up to 360 km/h (220 mph) – with engines the performance of which is limited to a maximum of 18,000 revolutions per minute (rpms). The race is not just limited to the race-track, but it extends beyond to technology. A handful of companies that are highly advanced in technology compete fiercely in manufacturing the engine for the race cars and designing superior aerodynamics model. For single racing season, formula 1 teams put together spend around $3 billion. So winning becomes important as reputations and money is at stake. Winning of races just don‟t depend on driver‟s ability but also on the team strategy. The team that works in the back-ground monitors the vitals of the car and the driver in real time and takes decisions on critical areas like pit stop.

A pit stop is located in a garage by-lane that runs parallel to the race track and each team is allotted a stall in the by-lane for their pit management. A camera and wireless communication is fit into the car to monitor the vital statistics and for relaying orders to the driver when to make a pit stop. Pit stop plays an important role in the race, though a layman may perceive it to be losing out on time in the race. But the fact is all teams follow this practice at one point or the other in the race. A pit stop can cost the team a lead time of around 10 seconds. So it is important to time the pit stop too. Some may argue that teams could use more durable tires and a tank full of fuel to avoid pit stops. But that would make the cars heavier and slower. By making pit stops cars can carry less fuel, and therefore be lighter and faster, and use softer tires that wear faster but provide more grip. Pit stops are strategic in gaining time on the race track and the gain makes up for the time lost on pit stop.

Pit stop scheduling need not be rigid as they can be changed according to the demand of the race. The main controller has to communicate clearly to the driver when he has to go for a pit stop. Similarly, the driver has to communicate to the controller if he feels that the car has to go through a pit stop. Once the pit stop strategy is clear, the driver moves his car to the garage by-lane towards his pit. During a scheduled pit stop, the team's pit crew services the car as swiftly as possible, completing a number of different services. The most visible services performed are refuelling the car and changing tires. Other services performed in routine pit stops include removing debris from radiator air intakes; cleaning the windshield; and making adjustments to tire pressure, suspension settings, and aerodynamic devices to optimize the car's performance for the current conditions.

The pit crew stands in position as the car rolls in to the slot. Only person who is not in the working po-sition when the car enters the pit stall is the rear jack man due to location of duties directly behind the car. The job of front jack man is considered the most hazardous, as it requires standing directly in front of the car as it enters its pit stall. In F1 racing, there are around 17 crew members. The first being “Lollipop man” who holds the team's pit sign, helping the driver identify his pit stall on a possibly crowded pit road.

During the stop, he holds the sign in position signaling the driver to keep his brakes on while tires are being changed, and then to shift the car in first gear once the jacks are lowered. He also gives the driver the sign to depart his pit stall by raising the sign from in front of the driver. Apart from that there are four tire changers and eight tire carriers all in position ready to act once the front and rear jack men lift the car. Other two members, the fire extinguisher man and the starter man don‟t actually work on the car but are all poised for any kind of emergency like fire or an engine halt.

The timing and synchronization of pit crew con-tributes to the reduction in lead time gained by other racers during the car‟s pit stop. Hence the pit crew is as critical to the team as the driver.

Agile Supply Chain: An Analogy

The concept of an agile supply chain can be explained with the help if an analogy, by taking the example of a pit stop, wherein parts need to be changed the moment the formula car enters it thereby working towards a collective goal, i.e. to improve the timeline each time.

An Agile supply chain replicates the Pit stop model. If one is not able to deliver the right goods, to the right place at the right time, there are other competitors out there on the look out to replace you. Agility and visibility are the two key aspects that need to be given most importance while running your supply chain as they are crucial for business success and competitive advantage.

Depending on the type of race the structure of the pit crew varies. Pit stop work is carried out by indi-viduals, each one a specialist in performing their duties but working together as the ultimate team. In fact, pit stop strategy has become one of the most important components of the racing strategy. The pit stop strategy can be exemplified by using car as a metaphor for an organization with each specialist represented in the pit crew.

Therefore, the implication of pit stop strategy lies in the importance to maintain focus on business operations and the need of standard based solutions that enable organizations to gain visibility of specific assets and how this in turn is driving process improvement through the entire supply chain.

1 comment:

  1. Hey great Work
    I am Omkar A student at IIT bomabay.
    I have been working on the same project as part of my mathematical modelling course. I can know which student/prof has taken up this project. Contact/ email any thing would be usefull

    Omkar Nene
    Senior Undergraduate
    Metallurgical Engineering and Material Science
    I.I.T. Bombay