I’ve long said that NASCAR racing is much more than pit stops, as is Indy Car and Formula One racing. And so many of us have been enamored with the high-performing teamwork examples seen in motorsports racing’s “lightning-fast” pit stops. However, that is NOT necessarily what exemplifies race-team performance, as observed in principles of Lean Equipment Management (LEM). Let’s explore.
Since the mid-1990s, I’ve made extensive studies of numerous NASCAR race teams, some winners, some champions, and some just disappeared from the business. Behind the scenes in race shops, engineering rooms, fab shops, and in racecar assembly, with owners, drivers, trackside personnel, and pit crews ALL share the same beliefs and principles pertaining to racecar performance and reliability. (W. Edwards Deming would call that the “constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.”)
There are three major elements in play here. First and foremost, it’s about the PEOPLE at all levels of the organization, from those who touch the racecar, to those who make decisions that affect the vehicle.
Then, it’s about the EQUIPMENT from, the racecar to the hauler, hand tools, and power tools, and from the shop equipment to trackside gear. Every piece of that equipment must be the right equipment, and be used for the right purpose, the first time every time.
The third element is the WORK PROCESSES, those standard ways of getting the right things done every time regardless of who does the task. We think of these as procedures, work instructions, systems, etc. Regardless of what we call them, though they’re the WORK PROCESSES that EQUIPMENT requires to perform as intended. And they are used religiously by the PEOPLE who touch the racer and those who make decisions about the vehicle.
Motorsports race teams also have four beliefs that have permeated my teaching and consulting. The first one is simple: “If you can’t finish you can’t win.” That one statement is the first requirement of a high-performing race team.
The second team belief is the “pursuit of perfection.” That means pursuing 100% defect-free and flawless performance. This pursuit of perfection applies to equipment performance, obviously. But it also applies to the way in which people perform their work (error-free), and the work processes, too, must be flawless and continuously improved. (And remember that “pursuit” of perfection does not mean the teams are perfect. Sometimes, they’re far from it. But “perfection” is an admirable, sometimes obtainable goal to pursue.)
A third race team belief: “The pit crew cannot WIN races, but they surely can lose races.” The race TEAM wins or loses every race, as a TEAM together, not as small groups. After every pit stop it’s up to the driver AND the racecar performance to finish, and hopefully to win the race.
In my recently completed 10-part series on Lean Manufacturing and Lean Equipment Management (see links below) I wrote about the compelling need for real “lean” and the goals for reliability professionals. I also described in detail the 7 Principles of LEM. After studying some of the top and championship NASCAR race teams for nearly three decades, I can safely say the top performers are following all seven principles as I’ve discussed them.
So, let’s move beyond the pit crews, (the “rock stars” of racing, as some of them have been called) and learn from the overall race team/racecar performance. And I’ll end with the fourth belief: The “race to the green flag” is as important as the race to the checkered flag.TRR
Click These Links To Read Prior Installments In This Series
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Williamson is a long-time contributor to the “people-side” of the world-class-maintenance and manufacturing body of knowledge across dozens of industry types. His vast background in maintenance, machine and tool design, and teaching has positioned his work with over 500 companies and plants, facilities, and equipment-oriented organizations. Contact him directly at 512-800-6031 or email@example.com.
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