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Sage puts ERP in pole position at Marussia F1

CBR looks behind the scenes at Marussia F1 to see some of the lesser-known technology being used by the new Formula 1 team

By Vinod

As the cars roared off the start grid at Melbourne’s Albert Park and the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia recently few of us back in the UK would have given a thought to what goes on behind the scenes at a Formula 1 team – particularly as the races both started during the early hours of Sunday morning, our time.

Fewer still would have wondered about the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system being used. But for one man it would have been front of mind. Consider this: There are 4,500 – 5,000 parts on an F1 car, not including the engine and 50% of those will change during the season. And they will all need to be managed so the team knows where they are, whether they are being used and whether a replacement is needed.

Sage Marussia
A Marussia F1 car at Sage’s Newcastle headquarters

Kevin Lee is operations manager at Marussia F1, the team that raced last season as Virgin Racing before Russian sports car manufacturer Marussia Motors bought a controlling stake. He was hired by the team in December 2010, when it was still a young team.

He told CBR that the team was essentially, "nothing more than a race team, which just assembled and raced the cars." But as the team grew a more mature infrastructure was required, and Lee says that one of his roles was to see that implemented.

"Before I turned up purchase orders were being raised on Excel spreadsheets," he explains. "Finance was running Sage 50 but there was no electronic connection between the two; so frankly there was no ERP system in place. I quickly identified that was unacceptable, we found a temporary situation where we kept running Sage 50 in finance while we came up with an Access-type database to raise POs in the short-term."

"Finance then upgraded to Sage 200 and we set about looking for the right ERP system for the group," he added.

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That was back in early 2011 and Marussia quickly drew up a shortlist of four possible systems. Lee said two were quickly discounted and after a further round of demos and so on, Marussia selected Sage’s ERP X3 platform.

Lee said that what swung the decision in Sage’s favour was that it was, "a modern integrated system, not several different systems cobbled together to make an ERP system. It let us create our own reports and do our own exports into Access or Excel. And it ticked virtually every functionality box we could have wanted."

However there was one further condition that complicated the rollout: the timescale Marussia wanted to work to to get the system in place and operational. Sage’s willingness to make the effort to meet this target was another deciding factor, Lee told CBR.

"The first scoping meeting when Sage visited our Banbury site was 4th August," Lee explained, "we went live on the 20th October."

Bob Anderson, general manager for Sage’s Enterprise Business, added: "We knew they needed to meet this particular timescale to start the season so we moved heaven and earth to make sure we could accommodate that. No corner cutting, we acted a bit like an F1 team, we did work throughout the night to make sure the software was ready in time for them to get the car ready."

Sage Marussia
Marussia F1 is using Sage for its ERP needs

Both Lee and Anderson said no corners were cut to get the system rolled out in the required timeframe but certain elements were not included. For example, each and every component on a F1 car is measured for mileage but Lee says the decision was taken not to include this, in order "not to complicate" the initial implementation. It may well be added at a later date, he said.

"Since [going live] Sage ERP X3 has been used to record every engineering release and to create the parts database and then the bill of materials," Lee added. "Since September every purchase order that’s left Marussia has been generated on Sage X3. Every goods inwards receipt and invoice that’s been paid are on it. So we really did turn it on in one big bang. It’s been used every since to control the business functions of the team."

"It is not part of design but as soon as [a part] leaves the design office it is loaded on to X3 and from the point where the design is finished X3 does control the whole lifecycle of the part, from bill of materials through to purchasing and finance," he added.

The system can be updated by Marussia workers who are at the races and sent back to the team’s Banbury headquarters over a secure VPN, allowing the team to keep track of parts in real-time.

However the team has decided not to go down the cloud route, preferring to go for an on-premise install. Lee said the team wants to feel "in control of its own destiny" when away for race weekends – as he points out the team will feel more in control if the servers are at their factory so they can be in control of them.

"We’ve now got visibility into what parts are on the car, what are spare and what are back at HQ. We didn’t have that visibility and control before," Lee concludes.

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