The Nascar and The Formula 1 racing schedules both start soon (Rejoice!). Over the past few years, both sports have undergone a remarkable technological transformation, mostly around the wealth of data available to them. Historically, competitors in the sport of racing have always prized data (telemetry) to help them perform, but in an era of big data, increasingly it’s looking like an arms race.
A Fitting Metaphor for Manufacturers
“By chance or whatever we’ve ended up that F1 is a very strong metaphor for how the world is developing around a more industrialized Internet. You take information and you measure things, and from that you try to adapt how things behave and flow, so you can make performance better.”
– Peter van Manen, managing director of McLaren Electronic Systems, part of a group which makes F1 cars, Reuters
To achieve the speed, reliability, and performance required to win these races consistently over a season, racing teams have turned to technology to give them the edge, measuring everything they can with as many as 300 sensors on a given car and thousands of data points collected every lap tracking everything from speed, engine RPMs, the drivers use of the gear shift and the brake, to more esoteric metrics like the temperature of the transmission fluid, the state of the engine oil, the pressure and temperature of the tires, the car’s ride height, etc.
These very same technologies are transforming business as well.
Telemetry started off as a nifty feature of the broadcast, a way to communicate to viewers just how fast these cars were going as the camera kept pace with them around the track, but has now become a hundred million dollar industry on its own with teams analyzing not only their own drivers’ data, but their competitors as well.
Machine analytics is the killer app of IIoT, the business equivalent to a racing car’s telemetry data. With analytics in place, a production line can and should be seen through the lens of performance optimization. The metrics you track (availability, cycle time, quality, e.g.) are the speed, RPMs and track times– the things that win races.
Performance Analytics is the Competitive Advantage
Data is now a engrained feature of Nascar and F1. After each practice and test run, mechanical and process engineers review the data and go about tweaking the car, the driver, and even the pit crew.
Inspired by similar technology used to track assets on the factory floor, new RFID sensor technology rolled out to Nascar and F1 by process engineering firm Zebra now shows a 3d model tracking the movement of each member of the crew as they strive to reduce the time the car is being worked on (on average 7 seconds in F1 and 11 seconds in Nascar).
In a sport where every second matters, analytics is helping them streamline everything and cut time incrementally.
When viewed through the lens of manufacturing, where unplanned downtime means the loss of productivity and money, a few hours a week of machine availability can add up to a winning season.
“There is a competitive advantage in being smarter with the sizeable amounts of data we collect; having the ability to present that data in a more effective form and having the ability to dynamically update that data and to react to data in real time offer clear performance gains.”
– Geoff Willis, director of digital engineering transformation for Mercedes’ F1 team, Forbes
Real-Time Data Makes an Impact
In the racing world, real-time data fed to on-premise engineering and operations teams have helped more than a few drivers stay in the race, and misreading real-time data has also led to some disappointing high profile second place finishes.
Likewise, manufacturers should begin to imagine the opportunities that real-time visibility offers them, not just the scoreboards that can measure the real-time performance of a department by cell, machine and operator, but how having this real-time data might fundamentally change operations.
Through real-time notifications and alerts, any unplanned downtime can be flagged to send an update to anyone on your staff that needs to know from whatever department. The result will be an opportunity to make a game-day call, rather than a weekly post-mortem after the fact.
It could be the difference between a successful production run and a delayed order.
In the Data, the Formula for Success
This year Nascar, in a controversial move, gave out the telemetry data of every race on every driver to every team that participated. The slowest, least winning drivers and their teams can now see the telemetry data collected from the seasoned, year-on-year champs. The move is designed to help bring parity to the less well-financed and less experienced teams, but it has nonetheless ruffled a few feathers.
One champion driver, Kyle Busch said, “I’ve spent 13 years in this sport to figure out how to drive a race car to make it go fast and then do the things that I do to make it go fast and win championships, and now you are going to hand all of that to a young driver on a piece of paper and they are going to figure it out as long as they know how to read it.”
Kyle Busch is being facetious about the complexity of big data analytics no doubt. With thousands of data points and petabytes of data, it won’t be a piece of paper, but an analytics software that provides competitors that type of insight. The data won’t give away a driver’s techniques, but it may well provide younger drivers with a few best practices that ups their game. Still, his point should not be lost on us.
In the world of racing and in manufacturing there are those that know how to win through experience, training, and discipline. They are the employees that keep the line moving and the numbers up — the champions– winning the race every day on the plant floor.
What would you give to have the visibility to:
A) recognize your best employees
B) replicate their winning ways throughout the plant?