Formula 1 Pit Stop 1950 to 2013

William Botha posted the following Youtube video in the TPS Principles and Practice discussion group on LinkedIn:

It contrasts a Formula 1 racing pit stop at the Indianapolis 500 in 1950 with one in 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. The time the car was stopped went from 67 to 3 seconds.

The 1950 pit stop used 4 people for 67 seconds, which works out to 4 minutes and 28 seconds of labor. If we include the external setup — before the car arrives — and the cleanup afterwards, the 2013 pit stop used 17 people for 44 seconds, or 12 minutes and 28 seconds of labor. In terms of labor costs, the 2013 pit stop was therefore less “efficient.” In a race, however, cutting the car stoppage time by a factor of 22 is priceless.

Car racing is often used as a metaphor for manufacturing, with machine changeovers as pit stops. In fact, many of the pit stop tricks are used in SMED, from prepositioning everything you need to using quick attach and release tools.

More generally, we can see the production operators as the drivers working to make the product cross the finish line, and everybody else in logistics, maintenance, QA, etc. in the role of the pit crew. This casts the time of operators and materials handlers, for example, in a different light. The operators on a line work in sequence, so that, if you delay one, you delay the entire line. The materials handlers, on the other hand, work in parallel and, if one waits, it does not affect the others.

The pit crew must be ready and waiting when the car arrives, so that it can spring into action, and the car should never be waiting for the crew. Likewise, an operator on an assembly line should never wait for parts, and cutting down on materials handlers to save money is counterproductive. A key point of Lean Logistics is to focus on effectiveness first. You pursue efficiency later, but never at the expense of effectiveness, because it doesn’t pay for the organization as a whole.


7 comments on “Formula 1 Pit Stop 1950 to 2013

  1. Fascinating. The 1950 crew only changed 2 tires. 2013 crew changed all 4. The 1950 crew fuelled the car. The 2013 crew did not. Arguably the work completed was different. The longest part of the pit stop is normally the fuel. However, F1 cars were routinely completing their stops WITH fuel and tires in 6-7 seconds. Refueling was banned c.2009?

  2. On the other hand, there is the comment attributed to Wernher von Braun that, “Crash programs fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month.” 🙂

    Your calculation of total labor time makes the difference. Too often, management today (especially in projects which do not produce a tangible “widget”) seems to believe that multiplying the staff cleanly divides the total effort. Your calculation makes it clear that these added people are doing added work to slice the duration.

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  6. The engineer in me says we need to engineer and build a better tire and eliminate the need for a pit stop.

    But the engineer in me also says, “man that is a cool video.”

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