by Jason Gumpert, Editor
Published November 19, 2013
The Lotus F1 Team have completed the second phase of their Microsoft Dynamics AX implementation, deploying AX 2012 R2 for use in the team’s aerodynamics division.
According to Microsoft Dynamics GM Fred Studer, the new phase will bring in some complex new capabilities that feel a bit closer to the race track than to the back office. For example, there is an integration to the team’s product lifecycle management (PLM) system. Studer writes:
“This now enables them to associate a design drawing to its constituent parts that need to be manufactured. They can employ material requirement planning on the item requirements, provide detailed and integrated planning to bring their design, manufacture and wind tunnel departments onto one unified platform as well as consolidate all of the content, communications and information from Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to project plans to email and have it all work seamlessly on one platform – Microsoft Dynamics AX.”
The AX 2012 R2 system replaces less structured data and communications that had been managed through Excel spreadsheets, Microsoft Project plans, and email communications, according to Microsoft.
The solution also includes To-Increase’s advanced discrete manufacturing (ADM) solution. To-Increase representatives tell us they are also building a Lotus-specific ECOBOM interface utilizing the To-Increase PLM integration framework. PLM integration is expected to be completed by the end of the year, setting the team up for its mainstream Manufacturing implementation in early 2014.
In addition to PLM integration, the phase two solution makes it possible to run material requirements planning (MRP) on item requirements. Design drawings will now be associated with the parts that need to be manufactured, bringing in team members from the design, manufacturing, and wind tunnel departments.
Lotus F1 have been using Microsoft Dynamics AX since November of 2012, when they went live with features for the Finance, HR, Purchasing, and Stores departments on Dynamics AX 2012. According to people familiar with the project, all users from both phases are now on the new AX 2012 R2 solution, including those phase one groups (we’re awaiting more details on this point from Microsoft).
Back in March, Dynamics AX senior program manager Kees Hertogh explained at Convergence 2013 that Microsoft’s relationship with the Lotus F1 Team, which has been active since at least early 2012, involves direct Dynamics AX R&D participation. Resulting features of the Lotus F1 Team solution have the potential to feed back to Microsoft for use in other high tech and manufacturing scenarios.
“We are seeing the manifestation of a roadmap and vision where Lotus F1 Team can best leverage the agility of Microsoft Dynamics AX to improve capacity planning across manufacturing, improve management of information that contributes to operational efficiency, provide automation across the F1 car lifecycle (including Aerodynamics-Design-Manufacturing-Racing) and integrate across disparate systems to deliver enhanced data accuracy and resource reporting.”
Nick Chester, technical director for Lotus F1 Team, told Microsoft’s Fire Hose blog that the phase two implementation should result in better throughput in their Aero department, and that the improved visibility will lead to getting more improvements onto the track more quickly:
“The main area Dynamics helps is by easing the workflow, and having better planning and better reporting, so we’ll know where parts are in the system, we’ll know how long it takes to do each stage in the production and design better,” Chester says. “If we’ve got all that information, we can actually process more designs at the same time and get better throughput. The easier we can make the workflow, the better we can prioritize it, the quicker we can go on the track.”
As far as partnerships in manufacturing and high tech go, a robust solution roadmap designed to help a top F1 team – Lotus is currently a close fourth in the 2013 constructor’s championship – makes for an exciting case study, with engineering and manufacturing requirements that ought to impress nearly any other discrete manufacturer. For Microsoft, the ability to show off a string of on-schedule Dynamics AX successes in a key vertical for a high profile customer/partner (Dynamics is also a team sponsor) is a marketing win by any measure.
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