08 October 2008 00:01

Tempus Fugit

Category: Pat´s Corner
By: Pat Clarke

Hello again.

Well, Summer vacation is over, the leaves are changing colour and the European FS season is finished. A new academic year has started and teams should be starting to think about their next car.

Stuttgart emerged as the best team in the European competitions, winning in England and in Italy and coming within half a lap of victory at Hockenheim. Congratulations and ‘well done’ to them. Delft won in Germany, proving yet again that FS is not a power `competition. The list of very competitive single cylinder teams grows each year, though looking at the efforts of many teams that try to emulate the successes of RMIT, Delft, FH Graz, Texas A&M etc, they have forgotten the Newtonian rule that F=MA.

There are some significant changes to the FS rules for 2009, particularly the cockpit templates that will change the look of the cars. Many teams objected to the introduction of the new rules, but the situation has not changed. There will be a new set of rules for next year, so that should be factored into a team’s preliminary planning.

Auckland University in New Zealand have released pictures of their 2008 FSAE-A car, built to 2009 rules. This car has a monocoque chassis and is very attractive. Critics of the new rules should look at the Kiwi car before decrying the new cars as ‘looking like whales’.

Whatever, the competition is a year by year challenge and doesn’t really relate to real world motor-sport, so it doesn’t matter what the rules are, they are the same for everyone, so let’s get on with the design and build.

A subject that arises regularly is the importance of having a good budget. Often we hear comments from teams that “We could have done as well if we had the same budget’! So, how important is budget? Very important, but not totally so, as we regularly see the Davids of the competition slay the Goliaths.

Project planning and effective use of the available time is far more important and this is something that teams have been told time and again over the years, yet unfinished projects are seen at every competition.

Carroll Smith once said, “A brilliant design that is not finished on time is useless. A simple design that has been properly developed is a better exercise in engineering”.

Actually, he said it many times in many different ways. Remember his “The first half of the project takes 90% of the time, the second half takes the other 90% of the time”?

The truth is that an effective team will have good Resources AND time management. Even in Formula One, where budgets run to hundreds of million Euros, there are constraints. Invariable these constraints relate to time. No matter how much money you have, you cannot buy time, so it follows that management of time is more important than management of any other resource!

Recently an Indian team wrote to the FSG forum asking some advice about what material to use for making sprockets. My advice was to buy their sprockets as there are better ways to use your time. Components like sprockets are easily acquired and there is no benefit to making them, There are better ways to use your time.

A  team can get more resources, more cash and more team members, but you cannot get more time. This makes time the team’s most finite resource and so should be managed very carefully. That makes time the great equaliser!

If team A arrive at the competition with their own sprockets and Team B arrives with sprockets bought in, there will be absolutely no advantage gained by Team A. The Judges will not be impressed, the scores will not be altered and even the knowledge gained by Team A will be minimal. But Team B gained the advantage of time! Time to get the car finished earlier, to test and to gain experience with the car.

As we get to more sophisticated components, ie, parts that take more time to design and build such as brake callipers, the same situation applies. Is there any real benefit in designing and making your own calipers? Well, there is certainly more knowledge gained by the team, or rather gained by a few team members, but if the car is supposed to be a ‘prototype’ for production, would the team not be better off to source an outside supplier for callipers? After all, a team would not consider making their own wheel bearings or spark plugs.

Decisions like this need to be made early in the project with a particular emphasis on time management.

Some other ‘Laws’ to help you with Project Management. Every one of these ‘Laws’ is the result of hard earned experience!

Murphy’s Law
If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it.
    Lesson? Self explanatory

The Peter Principle
In a hierarchy, everyone tends to rise to his level of incompetence.
    Lesson? Look at everyone, including yourself, for qualification.

Sturgeon’s Revelation
90% of everything is crap
    Lesson? Sturgeon underestimated! Find quality! 

Lister’s Law
People under pressure don’t think faster.
    Lesson? Remember this when deadlines loom!

Osborn’s Law
Variable won’t, constants aren’t.
    Lesson? Ain’t that the truth! 

The 2nd Law of Socio-engineering (pardon me Dr. Newton)
For every engineering action, there is an equal and opposite social reaction.
    Lesson? Don’t let FS ruin your quality of life!

The 80/20 rule
For any phenomena, 80% of the consequences stem from 20% of the causes.
    Lesson? The 80/20 rule affects everything in life, especially FSG!

Hofstadter’s Law
A task always take longer than you expect, even if you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.
    Lesson? Time management!

Parkinson’s Principle
Work expands to fill all the available time
    Lesson? Time management!

Brooks’ Law
Adding manpower to a project that is running late will make it later.
    Lesson? Use your workforce wisely.

I am sure you know more. Don’t scoff at them, there is wisdom distilled into every one.

Only one more FSAE event this year, FSAE-A at the end of November. Good luck to all there. Then I can relax over the Christmas break.

Until next month



Pat’s Error of the Month.

Sorry, but I have to do it again as the ‘rod ends in bending’ gremlin will not go away! Some people at FSG actually tried to argue in favour of this incorrect use of threaded rod ends.  Well, unless you wish to DNF like this, don’t do it!

And not long after my column was published warning teams to be careful about fire, this happened as a result of an engine failure at an unofficial FS event!



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