Williams Group, the renowned Formula One racing organisation, know how to make cars go fast. What they wanted was a way to make testing their cars go faster, too. To do this successfully, they needed a solution that could speed up testing, reduce errors, and free key personnel from rekeying data to add strategic value.
To test their cars, the company’s engineers test 60% scale models in a wind tunnel to see how they will perform in conditions that simulate aerodynamics on a real track. In order to ensure the ever-evolving model is dimensionally accurate, there is a daily measurement procedure. They used to record the results—120 measurements per day—on paper forms, then re-enter the data into an electronic spreadsheet. The process was time consuming and prone to error without the mobility and collaboration features that would optimise its usefulness to a modern business. Engineers had little confidence in the results.
Williams asked their technology partner, Avanade, to help address these concerns. As part of Avanade’s ongoing initiative to help Williams create a digital workplace, the two companies worked closely together to create Wind Tunnel Level 2, an app that eliminates the re-keying process and the time and errors that typically accompanied it. The app runs on a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tablet, which engineers use to record their measurements at test time. Macros automate the process of updating the Microsoft SQL Server database on the back-end.
The new app looks much like the old paper forms it replaces, so no training was required. But, unlike those paper forms, the app has built-in data validation to catch errors immediately, while the model car is still in the wind tunnel. And unlike the paper forms, it enables engineers to do real-time analysis of their measurements over multiple days of testing to gain insights not easily obtainable before.
Reduces errors, boosts confidence in results. With the Wind Tunnel Level 2 app, Williams engineers are able to catch measurement errors before they can be entered into the database. One of the biggest benefits of the greater accuracy is the greater confidence that engineers have in their results. Now, when discrepancies appear across several tests of a given model, the engineers know that a variable, rather than a recording error, is responsible and can proceed accordingly.
Enables more development runs. The number of test runs that engineers can complete is limited by factors including the time it takes to complete each run and F1 Sporting Regulations. By reducing the need for re-runs to identify and correct recording errors, the app gives engineers more time for development runs that lead to the development of better cars. The result is higher product quality and improved performance on the track.
Saves four hours per week. By eliminating the need to rekey data, the app saves an engineer 15 to 20 minutes per day. In addition, the aerodynamicist responsible for identifying and recording errors formerly spent two hours a week checking the paper forms. Now that neither of these actions are necessary, the team is able to apply an additional four hours a week to more strategic jobs.