Alex Burns, COO, WilliamsF1

The chief operating officer of WilliamsF1 tells Ammar Master that the Formula 1 team is working with Tata Technologies and INCAT on some important projects.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 20 Oct 2006 Views icon2117 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Alex Burns, COO, WilliamsF1

What work are Tata Technologies and INCAT doing for WilliamsF1?
INCAT is engaged on two projects. The first is production engineering of some elements of the 2007 race car. We redesign a complete car every year where about 98 percent of the components are new components. We are in the design phase of that car now, and INCAT employees in Pune will production-engineer some of the parts we are designing. INCAT will also be doing the design work of our new transmission test rig. One of the issues we have with our cars is they generate quite high g-levels. A Formula 1 car will do 4g lateral acceleration in cornering and up to 5g acceleration in braking. This can cause problems with the ongoing lubrication of the gearbox. We test this on an articulated rig which is a sophisticated piece of engineering.
What was the criteria for choosing INCAT?
It was a combination of two key items – expertise and cost. INCAT and Tata Technologies have the skills we need to do this work. We work very much at the very high end of engineering, so we need to have very good people to work on these projects. We also looked at the cost side because the resources in India are relatively cheaper than the resources in the UK.
What kind of synergies have you found working with INCAT?
We share a similar culture, attitude and approach with both INCAT and Tata Group. Like us, they are very competitive. They have good strong customer focus, and an attitude about excellence which is quite rare. With us working at the extreme end of engineering, we like to think we work at a very high standard of excellence. We see the same attributes in Tata Technologies and the people we meet. They want to do absolutely the best job.
Are you also exploring any other project with INCAT?
We are in the early stages of discussing how we can work together on computational fluid dynamics. The biggest development area for us at Williams is aerodynamics, which is one of the most powerful drivers of performance in the cars. We have wind tunnels in which we do scale model testing to develop the aerodynamics. We are at the leading edge of the development of external aerodynamics. There is a lot of complexities in those models and a lot of work has to be done in terms of changing raw CAD data into geometry that can be used for CFD run. All of this needs people based to computers. This is where we see similarities with INCAT, which has good people based to good computers at a relatively low cost. That is a possible synergy for us. We are soon to meet to discuss how we can work together on computational fluid dynamics.
Is there also a learning opportunity for Tata Technologies and INCAT from this experience?
We do place great emphasis on doing things very quickly to very high standards. So I hope that there will be some benefits for Tata Technologies in taking this forward. But there will also be technology coming the other way in the longer term. We will get to a point where Tata Technologies is designing complete parts of the car and it is making improvements to the design. So rather than production-engineer a part, they take a part that we currently manufacture, study it and come up with ways to improve that part. We are very open to this as well. We are some months from starting this but it will be the next phase of work.
What is your view on India as an engineering and IT hub?
There is a lot of very interesting work coming out of India. The people we've met from India are extremely intelligent and very well educated. The standard of engineering education in India seems to be very high. Indian engineers are extremely highly regarded. There is also this cultural match which is very positive. The UK and India have a very long history for many hundreds of years. I think that is reflected in the cultural match between Tata and Williams, between UK and India more generally. There is an awful lot of potential for growth of engineering being done in India.

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