Hot tyres and hot links

Running a race team over the web is a tricky business, especially when your offices are thousands of miles apart.

Designing and building open wheel, single seat racing cars in the UK and racing them all over the world poses a unique set of logistical and technical difficulties.

For UK-based Penske, its UNIX, NT and Web systems, many of which are supplied and adapted by Sussex-based OCSL, are key to running successful operations on both sides of the Atlantic.

OCSL’s solution lies in remote access and a secure company Intranet that gives the US racing team twenty four seven access to UK systems and data – straight from the pit lane.

Penske’s IT infrastructure – and its web-enablement – is critical in reducing design and build time, accelerating response times, sharing data and managing the geographical dislocations involved. OCSL has implemented a mixed UNIX and Windows NT environment centred around the main development HQ in Poole.

Commenting on the solution, Steve Killick, Penske account manager at OCSL, says: ‘Linking Poole to Detroit is an ‘always-on’ T1 frame relay WAN link: Detroit then operates the firewall-protected external Internet link; meaning all users can access and share data from behind the security of the corporate firewall.’

Security is clearly a critical area: not just when committing mission-critical business applications to the Web but also when protecting top data from prying eyes, and the WAN link offers high security for all Penske’s network traffic.

Out of the office, team members work from notebook PCs dialled into Penske’s Intranet through the browser. US communication passes through an IP address hosted by the Detroit firewall and then by Cisco router through to the UK intranet server.

Mike Bruce is Penske’s systems manager: ‘We’ve made our system as secure as possible. Penske is running on the sort of industrial strength systems and security that you don’t typically find in companies of our size.’

Penske’s IT and CAD system underpins its manufacturing capability: the company can produce virtually every race car component itself. Driving this is Pro/ENGINEER 3D CAD software and Pro/MANUFACTURE.

But why design and build in the UK when the racing is almost exclusively outside the country? Bruce explains: ‘Race car manufacture here is better geared to the fast production of precision, one-off or limited run components than in the US. It’s quicker for us to model then build parts and sub-assemblies in Poole and then jet them straight to the track than it is to use US suppliers.’

‘One of the major advantages of porting CAD applications and related data onto the Intranet is the user guide for each car. Effectively an online manual, the guide breaks down the vehicle into components and sub-assemblies, including race set-up data and the various aerodynamic configurations.’

‘In our business, as soon as you commit data to paper, it’s already getting out of date. Bearing in mind that we almost develop a new user guide for each race gives an idea of the impact that web-enablement has had. The guide has become an organic document that matches our testing and development programme and sits at the heart of our operations.’

‘Having established the value of the Intranet to assist remote working, it’s developing now as a complete information resource that can bring together all our operational personnel. It is transforming the way we work: the team like its simplicity, clarity and flexibility and the way it has cut the administrative headaches created by our previous systems.’

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