One of the things I have always enjoyed about working in Formula One is having the opportunity to introduce someone to the sport by showing them around one of our factories or around the pit lane, somewhere in the world. This can be especially good fun if they either know nothing about the sport or have preconceived notions about it.
The first comments are usually about the noise and spectacle of the sport, quickly followed by surprise at how immaculately prepared the cars are and the cleanliness of our workshop environments. Everywhere they look a visitor will see technology at work, technology from the worlds of aerospace and automotive engineering integrated with IT systems to create a 220mph projectile which is generating a vast amount of data whilst on track. Data which is used to continuously improve performance or mitigate risk.
Gradually, as our visitor walks alongside, I often note the dawning realisation of what Formula One is all about – to win in this sport means being the very best in a high-technology environment where performance, reliability and safety can appear strange bedfellows.
A sport where innovation is encouraged in order to secure competitive advantage and the best in performance, whilst at the same time demanding that the systems are robust and reliable. To finish first, first you have to finish.
A sport where we want our product to be driven as fast as possible by two of our employees – the drivers, but done so with safety at the very centre of our thoughts. Win or lose, we want our drivers to live to fight another day.
And a sport where one word can be used to describe our technologies, processes, systems and behaviours – quality.
Each Formula One team is an engineering company dedicated to design, manufacturing and operating a pair of cars in the 20-race World Championship. To compete against the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari or McLaren-Honda you first of all have to recognise that the fundamentals of an engineering-led business must be right. And in that respect the basics of quality systems, management and assurance provide important foundation stones.
It is for that reason alone, that you will find Formula One teams and suppliers embracing the highest industry standards in certification and compliance. As we work to immoveable deadlines, featuring new cars designed to comply with revised regulations each year, efficient project management and a complete focus on delivery are critical for every team on the starting grid. There is no point in turning up with the best product in the world, the day after the race.
It has been extremely satisfying to see the progress that has been made in Formula One in recent years, a step-change in performance brought about by the adoption of quality systems. When our visitors sometime protest that Formula One races can be a little predictable, I point out that it is not because we have less overtaking than we had in the past – indeed there is arguably more overtaking than ever these days – but that we are seeing fewer and fewer systems failures and reliability problems. So we even have quality to thank for the fact that in Formula One 2015, most of the cars will finish most of the races, most of the time. Even at 200mph, it’s quality at work.
Mark Gallagher is a speaker on Business Lessons from F1 and the author of ‘The Business of Winning’. He will be speaking at the CQI conference on 15 April – book your place today.