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OM in the News (and Video Tip): Formula 1 Pit Stops and the Gilbreths

October 23, 2014

pitstopFrank and Lillian Gilbreth, the pioneers of time and motion studies, would smile with approval as they watch this 2-minute video comparing F1 racing pit stops in 1950 and today. If you follow F1 racing, it comes as no surprise that pit stops have been reduced to an amazing 2 seconds!

The role of the pit has changed dramatically over the years, writes OR/MS Today (Oct., 2014). For much of racing history, cars would only stop in the event of problems. Scheduled tire changes or fuel stops were not part of the equation. But in 1982, an analytically-minded UK race team focused on 2 important facts. First, softer tires stuck to the track better than harder ones, though they wore out more quickly. Second, less gas in the tank translated into a lighter, faster car. Calculations showed that time spent changing tires and refueling was more than offset by performance on the track.

The idea quickly caught on, making pit stops–and their efficient execution–an integral part of racing. But in 2010, when F1 racing instituted a no refueling policy (out of safety concerns), the stage was set for lightening-fast tire changes. Achieving a 2-second tire change required optimizing the entire process. Analysts looked at everything from the design of wheels nuts (1 per wheel on F1 cars), to special self-positioning pneumatic guns that remove and tighten each nut. They then turned their attention to the pit crews. Teams of 3 work on each wheel, one to remove the old tire, one to position the new one, and one to operate the gun. Their moves are choreographed down to the position of their hands and feet from start to finish. With 2 jack operators and other workers, as many as 20 people crowd around a car during a pit stop–for 2 seconds of work.

What a great example of methods analysis (see Figures 10.5- 10.7) for Chapter 10.

Classroom discussion questions:

1. Try to create an activity chart for the pit stop from the video, using Figure 10.6 and Solved Problem 10.1 as models.

2. How does this differ from the NASCAR pit stop described in the Global Company Profile that opens Chapter 10 on pages 396-7?


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