Pit stops are one of the most exciting and critical elements of a Formula One Grand Prix race. A successful pit stop can mean the difference between earning the chequered flag or rolling across the finish line along with the rest of the F1 pack. It can make or break a race for both driver and crew. Of course, core to every team’s success is a fast turnaround, regardless of what needs doing – be it fresh fuel, wheel replacements, an inspection to remove debris from the car, or the replacement of any damaged parts such as the nose assembly. Jobs that might take an afternoon at your local garage are crammed into a mere few seconds.
Interestingly enough, only the day after this year’s British Grand Prix – an exciting race with an inordinate number of pit stops as a result of the Pirelli tyre failures – was it announced on the BBC News that train and bus companies have started working with the Williams Formula One team to help improve their maintenance service. The infusion of pit crew mentality into fleet transportation maintenance is producing amazing results where train maker Alstom Transport managed to turn a two day repair job into a four hour repair job after watching the F1 maintenance team at work.
So if F1 teams have been able to perfect this process why hasn’t the rest of the maintenance world also managed it? After all, this is not rocket science! For years, everybody has been talking about optimizing the maintenance process and is acutely aware that long equipment downtime results in poor customer satisfaction and loss of revenue to the maintenance company.
According to F1 teams the answer is simple and has two main points:
1. Make sure you have the right part in the right place with the right engineer at the right time
2. Make sure mechanics know what to expect, beforehand, so they can get everything ready to go
And I couldn’t agree more! Point one makes it clear that effective parts management is a vital component of well-organized fleet maintenance and repair, while point two stresses the importance of an integrated diagnostics system. This reinforces exactly what we have been saying for years at Enigma, and what our InService MRO solution provides when it is integrated with a diagnostics system.
Mechanics at the base or workshop can receive malfunction notifications directly from the diagnostic system, thus enabling them to start to trace the fault before they even see the equipment. When integrated with the technical information, the mechanic not only rapidly finds the source of the problem but also ascertains the precise steps that will need to be performed to fix it, and also critically the exact parts needed for the job. The final piece of the jigsaw is the ability to order parts directly from the parts catalog so that no time is lost in this seamless process, thereby ensuring that the parts are ready for when the equipment comes in for repair and resulting in a complete synergy of parts, people and preparedness.
So what is everyone waiting for? Perhaps the bus and train companies are going to lead the way with Formula One race crew tactics and other industries will follow. Watch this space, as they say.