In Formula One motor racing the margins between success and failure are razor thin. When a technical problem arises the pressure is on to find its source and put it right without delay, which makes component traceability a big issue for the sector.
Software plays a major role in helping companies achieve visibility across the lifecycle of a product and companies in industries such as F1 are increasingly relying on the latest systems to give them a competitive edge.
BRP Composites based in Godalming, Surrey, supplies a range of carbon-fibre components, including front and rear wings, brackets, brake ducts and suspension wishbones, to the F1 sector. It uses ProgressPlus production control software across the company to support all aspects of process control, including sales, manufacturing, reporting, stock control, despatch, and invoicing.
Peter MacKenzie, BRP operations manager, said that the system has allowed the company to pass stringent quality audits by potential and existing clients. ‘One of the main reasons for implementing the system is that F1 teams require full traceability throughout the lifecycle of product,’ he added.
‘The new system has significantly improved the robustness of our processes and reporting mechanisms, giving our clients complete confidence that their components will meet stringent design specifications and be delivered on time. It has also given us the added capability to easily pass a quality audit by prospective clients.’
Explaining the importance of traceability, Tony MacBride, managing director at ProgressPlus developer Berkeley Myles Solutions, said: ‘If something goes wrong, you need to know exactly what happened, what component went wrong, what batch of material was used in it, whether the entire batch was faulty — you have to trace that all the way back. This can happen immediately after the goods are supplied, right up to months or even years after the event.
‘To support materials traceability, any time a manufacturer raises an order they will buy the materials for that job. When the materials arrive, they will either log the batch of materials into stock or issue them directly straight to the job. When they draw it out of stock, they will record the exact batch that was used against that specific job. Once logged it is accessible in the system for life.’
In addition, certain materials arrive with official certification that can be scanned in and automatically linked to the goods received number (GRN) that the software generates. Any job on the system can be queried to find the batch of material used, and the scanned image of the certificate can be examined and sent direct to the customer if required.
‘Our software also allows you to log exactly which person worked on any element of a specific job either from the timesheets or direct from the shop floor,’ added MacBride. ‘You have the traceability from a labour point of view — you can see who did what, when and on what day, what machine or piece of equipment they used, and what specific job was worked on.’
MacKenzie said the use of production control software has enabled BRP to both improve service standards to customers and achieve cost benefits for the company itself. ‘It has significantly improved the quality of all of our administrative processes, including invoicing and purchasing orders, bringing considerable efficiency savings across the business.’
MacBride claimed that its software systems could put businesses in better shape to withstand the current pressures bearing down on the engineering sector: ‘Our system has helped BRP have better records and better control of its business down through the software’s traceability support. They are a small organisation but it has helped raise its profile with F1 manufacturers who now look at BRP in a totally different light. Having evidence they are professional and organised, they trust them a bit more, and in the current marketing conditions that can give you an edge. For BRP it is part of its sales pitch that it has a system that controls the quality and traceability side.
‘At the moment, small manufacturing companies have to differentiate themselves from others in the same field,’ he said. ‘It can be price related, but more often it is to do with quality and controlling the quality. Without an adequate system to maintain your traceability records, you are missing out and somebody else will have the edge over you.’
F1 suppliers are increasingly reliant on specialist software to provide teams with full traceability throughout the lifecycle of a component