I expect most UK readers will immediately recognise the advertising slogan I’m misquoting – and it’s not to criticise the original but to get more people thinking about something many of us watch taking place on TV, admire the teamwork but don’t then try to learn from it.
Changing all four wheels on an F1 car as efficiently and effectively as possible, during a race, is critical to the whole team’s success. Fumbling just one step and championship points will potentially be lost. Each member of the team in the pit lane has to know his (or her) own tasks exactly, to be able to perform them flawlessly and, all the while, remaining aware of what each other member of the team is doing. Co-ordination is vital.
Pit crews are not super-human, though. They have tools that have been designed and made specifically for the job in hand (no adjustable wrenches here). The exact sequence of tasks is planned, tried, analysed and revised (PDCA on steroids) until they can change four wheels (from the car coming to a stop until it is released back into the pit lane) in about three seconds. Many hours of work (hundreds) have gone into that three second burst of activity all with the aim of getting it right, when it matters, right first time – zero defects. I’ve mentioned PDCA but that’s not the only technique familiar to quality specialists that is used in developing a championship winning F1 car and team. I’ve not done a detailed analysis but I doubt there are many tools or techniques that F1 teams don’t employ, or have at least tried, in their efforts at perfection.
You may argue that they have massive budgets that allow them to do this, to plan and do the job properly; on race weekends they are in the public eye and the rewards are big. That is a good reason to use all the tools at their disposal, to get the best out of what they have. I just wonder why we don’t do the same. We have data, or the ability to gather it if we don’t, yet how often do we just try to analyse it? We often accept that the job is as good as it can be and that any possible improvements are minimal; a good quality professional should have an itch that can never be eased, always wanting to make things better – and a desire to learn from the best.