Small steps to deliver a big advance; that's the spirit of Kaizen. At first glance, the TF105 that has been among the front-runners so regularly during the 2005 Formula 1 season looks almost identical to last year's TF104B -- which never made it...
Small steps to deliver a big advance; that's the spirit of Kaizen.
At first glance, the TF105 that has been among the front-runners so regularly during the 2005 Formula 1 season looks almost identical to last year's TF104B -- which never made it to the podium. How did this competitive leap come about? The answer is the embodiment of Kaizen -- Toyota's philosophy of continuous improvement.
"If you look at all the F1 cars Toyota has produced," says Mike Gascoyne, technical director chassis at Panasonic Toyota Racing. "From the first TF101, through the TF104B, the TF105 'roll-out' car, to the TF105 we raced in Australia and on to the TF105 we've run most recently, you'll see that they kind of 'morph' into one another. Mechanically they're more or less the same, because the basic package was fundamentally sound. Aerodynamically, though, there have been many detail changes."
To speed up the flow of developments and ensure that what worked in Toyota's hi-tech 50 percent-scale wind tunnel also worked on the track, the aerodynamics department was restructured during the latter part of '04.
"We put a lot of resources into changing the way we work," says Gascoyne, "to improve the accuracy of what we were doing, to work in a more scientifically controlled way. We tested for more hours, learned more and more things, made better models -- and it came out in the results. By 'scientific' I mean repeating the same configurations over and over again so that you know you can repeat to a certain level of accuracy.
"We can test to about .03 of a percent; we can take the model out of the tunnel, dismantle it, reassemble it and test it again to within that very small margin. If your level of accuracy isn't that close then you can test all those bits and you won't see the improvement. Our philosophy is that if you have a very high accuracy level you find lots of small improvements -- and the sum of those parts is a major competitive step."
The trend in modern F1 car design has been towards having the rear end tightly 'packaged' to improve the volume and quality of air flow to the rear wing. In practice, this means minimising the size of all the installations at the rear: the engine and gearbox (and their wiring and ancillary components) and the rear suspension. This is where Toyota has benefitted from building the complete car 'under one roof', integrating the design of the chassis and engine.
"The computer software we use to design the car is now much more sophisticated than it was 10 or 20 years ago," says Luca Marmorini, technical director engine. "In the old days of F1, when you installed the engine in the car, many elements still had to be finessed by hand, such as the wiring. That doesn't happen now."
"Working in the same building means that we have much closer communication with the engine designers," says Gascoyne. "Luca doesn't just turn up with an engine and say 'Here it is, now fit it in your car.' And you can see the effects of that working relationship -- not just in terms of points, but also the rarity of mechanical failures."