Renault profile: Head of Manufacturing In the first of the team's personnel profiles, meet the Head of Manufacturing at Enstone, Keith Saunt. His challenge? Co-ordinating the production of every new part to come out of the factory. The Renault...
Renault profile: Head of Manufacturing
In the first of the team's personnel profiles, meet the Head of Manufacturing at Enstone, Keith Saunt. His challenge? Co-ordinating the production of every new part to come out of the factory.
The Renault F1 Team's factory at Enstone produces 90% of each chassis on-site, from the bodywork to barge-boards, uprights to undertray. As Head of Manufacturing, Keith Saunt has the task of ensuring every part throughout the year, from the first monocoque to the final reliability updates, is sourced and manufactured on time...
Q: What was your career path to reach your current position?
Keith Saunt: After working in Local Government, I left to set up my own business in 1987 and, two weeks later, was convinced to accept a purchasing role with Lotus. I then became Chief Buyer before moving to Benetton in 1988, where I was responsible for setting up the purchasing department: until then, this hadn't existed in any complete form. During my time with Benetton I moved onto the production side, and after a two-year spell outside the industry, joined Renault as Head of Manufacturing in 2001.
Q: What does your job involve?
KS: Simply put, we have a schedule for building the new car, and for the development of parts during and testing throughout the season. An F1 car is made up of roughly 3,000 parts, and any one of them might be modified during the season. My responsibility, working with my colleagues in the purchasing areas, inspection departments and stores, is to ensure that whenever a new component is required, it has been manufactured or purchased on time, and is available to be fitted to the cars.
Q: What would you say are the main skills required?
KS: The main things are an ability to co-ordinate, multi-tasking, and understanding how to get the best out of the people you work with, with the systems you have in place. When producing a new chassis, we must ensure that thousands of parts have been produced on time, and in sufficient quantities, that everything is available for a seven-day car build at the end of the process. We have one big fixed deadline, which is the day the cars must leave for the first race of the season: if parts are not ready by then, you don't want to be in the office when the chief mechanic gives you a call...!
Q: Your job happens behind the scenes rather than at the races: what are the best aspects of it?
KS: Without a doubt, team spirit: it is a real buzz to work with dedicated people who all have the same goal. And then, the feeling when the first new car rolls onto the truck to go to a shakedown. On time, of course!
Q: And the worst?
KS: The end of the last race of the season: everybody here loves racing, and the winter is a period to get through so that we can all start again. Then, of course, the clocks change, the nights begin drawing in, and I hardly see any daylight from November to February as we get into the middle of the winter build period. Spending days on end in the dark can be tough!
Q: Finally, what is your best memory from your career so far?
KS: Winning the World Championship with Benetton, and especially celebrating it, are fantastic memories! After that, attending the launch of the R202: this was the first car of Renault's return to F1, and also the first car build I had been involved with since joining the company. When the wraps came off in Paris, it was an incredibly satisfying sight.