Siemens PLM helps Red Bull Racing go full throttle

Written by: Justin Cunningham | Published:

It is difficult to think back to the days when reams of paper drawings consumed rooms, along with jumbled test results and random design concepts on loose sheets of paper. Even with impressive organisation, getting access to a given part or assembly drawing was time-consuming. It made capturing internal knowledge and ideas difficult to formalise, and often relied on long-serving senior personnel to fill in any blanks.

However, as the design process has gone digital, a host of systems and corresponding acronyms have been developed to make the process of accessing and organising design data quicker and easier. This enables firms to leverage data from across the entire business to drive the design process.

The accumulation of CAD, PDM, ERP, SLM and other business functions now broadly falls under the overarching system of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). PLM goes well beyond design data and now delves into potentially every aspect of a modern engineering business. PLM is about capturing, utilising and leveraging data and knowledge from the entire business.

The concept of a data led business has had a profound effect on efficiency and the way in which product procurement is carried out. It has encouraged much more of a systemic approach to planning, design, supplier collaboration, manufacturing processes and end of life considerations much more assessable and understood at the frontend. Indeed, this is driving overall capability, with less revision going back and forth as a result of improved understanding of other departments beyond the design office.

Fulfilling great expectations
To keep up with the needs of engineering businesses, Siemens PLM has set up a number of Innovation Partnerships with leading engineering companies to understand what the requirements are today and also to drive future developments. These include an impressive list of large, successful global engineering brands including Rolls-Royce and Infiniti Red Bull Racing.

"Different industries have different challenges and needs," says Neil Dunsmuir, vice president of EMEA marketing for PLM at Siemens PLM. "We need to ensure that our PLM system works for a company like BAE Systems in managing, for example, a submarine that has 2 million parts and a lifecycle of 50 years, to a consumer electronics company that produces a new product in its millions, every six months, but has a lifecycle of only two years.

"So, Infiniti Red Bull Racing showcases us to industries that require that high volume of change in the design and release of products. As a Formula One team, it has to manage the pace of innovation and set that rate of change, very aggressively. And that also helps push us in terms of future development."

Though Infiniti Red Bull Racing may push the boundaries of Siemens PLM Software, it is keen to make clear that it uses the software only as intended and that it is exactly the same software that is shipped to customers worldwide.

Siemens' Teamcenter is, by its very nature, a highly configurable system designed to be effective in almost any sector and size of company. For Infiniti Red Bull Racing, that means its workflows have been configured to allow the rapid development of highly sophisticated parts. The ability to push design change through its business is a key part of its competitive edge.

"We need something very robust, that is able to perform at a fast pace and at a high level of complexity," says Al Peasland, head of technical partnerships at Infiniti Red Bull Racing. "Some weeks, we could be pushing up to a thousand design releases through our technical office but we manage that in pretty much the same way as any company using Siemens' Teamcenter software. So, where possible, we prefer to keep everything 'out of the box' in terms of the way we configure the software."

Even the performance of the workflows is something that is closely monitored by Infiniti Red Bull Racing to ensure that there are no bottlenecks and that any project work does not get stuck on an individual's desk for too long without being actioned.

"When a designer saves the final NX 3D CAD model, it goes into a Teamcenter workflow that is passed to various members of our team depending on the specific attributes set up by that workflow," says Peasland. "It depends how safety-critical the change is, what type of part it is, does it affect the electronics of the car for example, as different attributes trigger different workflows and how it is shared around the business for approval and sign off."

Indeed, it is not unusual for manufacture to be happening in parallel with the design of a part. However, within this rapid collaborative environment is the PLM digital backbone that enables tracking and control of work going on, from parts manufacture to its delivery to circuits around the world.

"We need to be able to monitor performance and track any design or project, so we know where it is and if it is on schedule," says Peasland. "So we need tools to support and drive that and make sure they are agile enough to work in parallel with a very fluid and dynamic workforce."

While Siemens PLM Software aims to enable, capture and manage innovation, it is a fine line between this goal and simplt creating a highly laborious data entry task that actually begins to become a barrier to innovation happening in the first place.

"We need to make sure our products are moving at the pace that Infiniti Red Bull Racing and our other users expect," says Dunsmuir. "It needs to be the Formula One team that is able to push the most design iterations through its business, as that's what wins and loses races over the course of a season. So, if we don't develop the software and innovate with the team, then we will actually become an inhibitor to innovation."

In almost every part of Infiniti Red Bull Racing is some element of Siemens' Teamcenter Software. In particular, access to Teamcenter Visualisation is common. This is a lightweight 3D CAD viewer that most people at Infiniti Red Bull Racing can use to view parts and assemblies, from mechanics in the pits to strategic management.

"We can share very rich data with anyone in the business, almost anywhere in the world," says Peasland. "That means mechanics can see the 3D data of the parts they are about to assemble at the circuit.

"Because of the open architecture of Teamcenter, it also ties into other systems very easily such as our ERP system and our part-lifing system. Some of these are written in-house, some are off the shelf items. So Siemens PLM Software has integrated with all these different aspects of the business and brought them all together. It really is our backbone as it reaches into almost every area of the business."

Bringing a Formula One Car to Life
See Al Peasland, head of technical partnerships for Infiniti Red Bull Racing, talking about its partnership with Siemens PLM Software at the Engineering Design Show's Eureka Conference, at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry, on October 22nd at 10.15am.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing is the current Formula One World Champion, having achieved consecutive driver and constructor world championship titles for the past four years. Its race-winning performance on track is only possible with the dedication and commitment of a highly-skilled team, coupled with the latest in technology and systems. Get a behind-the-scenes insight into the fast-paced and exciting environment of Formula One design and procurement.

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