Formula 1 Racing and Remote Reliability and Performance Monitoring - Emerson Automation Experts

Formula 1 Racing and Remote Reliability and Performance Monitoring

So how exactly does Formula 1 (F1) racing compare with process manufacturing and production?

Emerson's Mike Boudreaux

Mike Boudreaux
Director, Remote Asset Monitoring and Analytics

Chasing-Checkered-FlagIt’s an interesting question that Emerson’s Mike Boudreaux explores in an Uptime magazine article, Chasing the Checkered Flag. In both cases, optimum performance results from enhanced data and the collaboration of experts.

Key to this success is the focus on reliability and performance monitoring from remote experts. Mike opens noting how F1 racing was done years ago:

F1 cars were designed by instinct, experience and history. Once the car got to the track, the driver communicated information about the car’s performance based on the feel of the car and what could be seen. The crew relied on their senses, too. They watched the car accelerate and turn and brake, looking and listening for problems. Often, by the time they spotted a problem, it was too late to make a change. Other times, although they identified a problem early enough, they didn’t have the right spare parts to fix it.

But technology has significantly changed how F1 crews operate:

…teams design new cars every few years. They use cutting-edge technology to develop incredibly complex machines, constantly tweaking the formula. The driver is supported by engineers on the track, stationed locally and at team headquarters. An F1 car has hundreds of sensors on it, which are used for control of the vehicle, as well as monitoring its performance. Sensors measure the pressure and temperature of the tires, the engine temperature and oil pressure, among other key performance indicators. And performance data is collected from numerous points on the vehicle for analysis.

With this data, it’s:

…transmitted wirelessly back to the team so race engineers can perform remote analysis to enable better and faster decisions about how they set up and configure the car.

And this data is not just for the pit crew at the track, it’s:

…also sent wirelessly via satellite to the team’s headquarters where additional computers store the data for use in simulations, trending and future design. Before any changes are made to the car on the track, the team will run the simulation multiple times at headquarters to ensure they’re making the right decision.

So how is this like our process industries?

A wide variety of technology enablers currently available have made adoption of integrated operations increasingly common. New sensor technologies are available that are less intrusive and more cost-effective, including corrosion, ultrasonic, acoustic and infrared. Wireless technologies, such as WirelessHART and 4G networks, have enabled easier collection of data. Access to and reliability of the Internet have become ubiquitous. Collaboration tools, such as video conferencing and social media, make it easier to make informed decisions, no matter where members of the team are located. Advances in display technologies and high fidelity process simulation have made virtual training a reality. The increase in the ability of devices to communicate about themselves, the ability of pervasive sensing to capture a whole new level of site operations data and the use of big data for analytics promise even better monitoring for increased reliability.

Remote monitoring connects additional data with experts to improve reliability and performance:

…in process automation assets, as well as production assets, is increasing. End users are monitoring the condition of critical assets, such as turbines, blowers, cooling towers and heat exchangers. They are also remotely monitoring control systems, instrumentation and valves. And new sensing technologies are enabling remote monitoring of site safety, energy use and the environment.

These experts may be employees or third-party process and reliability experts depending on the scale of the process manufacturer or producer. Just like the F1 teams, this collaboration leads to improved performance.

Mike concludes:

The stakes and the payoff in reliability and performance improvements for implementing remote monitoring capability in the process industry are even greater. Some process companies may see remote monitoring capabilities as a vision for the future. But the fact is, the future is here for the process industry. The technology and expertise exist today and adoption is gaining momentum.

Read the article for more on ways to bring these technologies, expertise and collaborative communications in raising your performance level.

You can also connect and interact with other reliability and process improvement experts in the Reliability & Maintenance and Improve & Modernize in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.


  1. Very interesting article and relevant analogy I think. Plants can be modernized with Pervasive Sensing layer of automation to reduce downtime, maintenance cost, energy cost, and to avoid incidents.

    I personally agree with the Driver = operator and mechanic = maintenance analogy. They also use separate systems. The driver has a dashboard with only the simple status information necessary for safe driving just like the operator has a display with simple status to safely operate the plant – no needless detail shall clutter the screen. On the other hand, the mechanics in the pit lane and the experts in the factory have access to all the in depth details from a display much different from that of the driver. This second system to ensure reliability and efficiency is perhaps the greatest leap in F1. It should also be noted that to some extent we see the same pattern in regular cars; lots of sensors networked throughout the car, simple status symbols to the driver “check engine” light, but more advanced OBD-II tablet or computer for the mechanic providing every detail. Similarly, plants are now being modernized with a second layer of automation with hundreds or thousands of additional sensors (typically wireless), not for control, but for asset monitoring to improve reliability, maintenance and operations productivity, energy efficiency, and to reduce incidents and response time. Most of this information is not used by the operators at the DCS consoles in the control room, but by reliability and maintenance engineers, energy manager, and HS&E officers using the plant historian system from their office to put their plant in pole position. See further explanation in these articles:

    NEW: Cut Your Losses with Relief Valve Monitoring

    Beyond the Control Room

    Second Layer of Automation

    Maintenance with a Hart

    Smart Sensing: Situational Awareness

    Are you sending people in harm’s way?

    Wireless for Asset Uptime

    For a new plant, pervasive sensing infrastructure beyond the P&ID has to be planned from the very beginning of a project

  2. This morning I picked up this piece of F1 news that is relevant: “Fernando Alonso has special sensor fitted for Malaysian Grand Prix”
    “Fernando Alonso’s McLaren will be fitted with a special sensor when he makes his first appearance of the season in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix. The device will help McLaren in their investigation into what caused Alonso’s accident in testing and in particular the driver’s complaint that the steering was “heavy” immediately before he left the track at the Circuit de Catalunya.”

    That is, McLaren had an issue with the car, and deploy yet another sensor to troubleshoot the problem. The data from the additional sensor does not go to Alonso (the driver, i.e. car operator) it goes to the engineers in the pit lane (i.e. the maintenance) and in the factory. This is exactly what plants are doing too; they have process problems and they deploy additional wireless sensors to gain an understanding of what is going on. The data mostly goes to the maintenance/reliability team, energy managers, and the HS&E officer – not so much to the operators. For instance, they have hundreds of relief valves releasing into the same flare system and therefore don’t know which one is releasing and when or how long. Using acoustic sensors they will find out and can troubleshoot process problems by correlating with other process events. See further explanation in the “Cut Your Losses with Relief Valve Monitoring” article I linked to in my earlier post.

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