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Thread: Reasoning your way through the FSAE design process

  1. #81
    Freddie, I think you will also be very interested in reading the topic named "Team Management Styles" which can be found easily using the Find function. There is a lot of good stuff there on team structures and on systems engineering.

    Good luck with your team!

    Jasper Coosemans

    DUT Racing Team 2008-2010
    Delft University of Technology
    DUT Racing Team (Delft) 2008-2010

  2. #82
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    Another thread here about newbies with stupid ideas brought the idea to me to bring the topic of team management into this post.

    People tend to claim that other teams are more succesfull then them because of budget and other resources. In my opinion team management is the way more important factor. What you initially need is a sufficient number of highly motivated team members. The real question is how to do that.

    One special problem every FSAE teams suffers from is that every year a high number of team members leave the team because they graduate/don't have enough time anymore. This means you have to transfer as much knowledge and experience of the leaving team members to the newbies. And to teach the new guis how the team works. There is nothing wrong and it is pretty normal that new team members come up with a lot of unrealistic ideas and don't know what's it all about in general.

    So the first important thing is to set up the new team early enough. Everybody has to decide wether he wants to be a team member for a season or not. That means you have to inform students about your project. After general advertisement at campus you have to give interested people detailed information about what you are doing, how your team is working and what it is like to be a part of it. There is only full or nothing. People who just show up now and then don't help you! That has to be said. While someone is a member of the team, the team must have absolute priority. There is nothing wrong if someone doesn't like this, but he has to accept that he can't join the team.

    Typically there won't be too many people left then, but you don't need a team of 100 people to build a car. If you have such a big team in the end there will be only a few who really keep the project going. So why not start with only these few people?

    Form the new team early enough that the new team members can visit a competition before they start their work. That's difficult to impossible of course for teams who have to travel very far to comps. But if it is possible it is worth it. The other advantage of having the new team together before the competition of the old team is that the quitting people are still around. The newbies can talk to them and let themselves explain what it is all about.

    Once the season has started the question comes up how to motivate people and how to make sure they get their work done. In my opinion very important is to show them that you believe in them. Give everybody a task. And really important is that everybody has his own task. If you just define a suspension team consisting of a couple of guys and they have to organise themselves, in the best case one third of them manages to design and build a suspension and the other two thirds of them will just be there to wear a team shirt at comp.
    Everyone must have his own task. One is responsible for the wishbones, one for the uprights, one for the wheels, one for springs and dampers etc.
    This will give people the feeling that they are full team members from the beginning and motivate them to do the best they can to fullfil their task.
    Of course you have to guide and control the newbies. But guiding them doesn't mean just to tell them what to do. Try to explain them what is important.
    Make a tight schedule with a lot of small deadlines. This will help people to organise their work and team leaders can recognize very early if someone is falling behind the schedule. Especially while developing concepts and designing everybody should have to present his work to the entire team. For example at the end of concept phase and at the end of the design phase. Like this everybody gets a deeper insight to other fields of the car and everybody is forced to have something ready to present at a certain time.
    It won't hurt to invite your alumni to these presentations and give them the possibility to tell what they think about certain ideas. People who were members for two or more years usually have seen so much shit which can happen during a season and at comps that they propably can judge about some things better. Several times you will have the case that someone just sais "we've tried that back in xx - was a pain in the ass because..."

    At a certain point people must stop designing and start building a car. This sounds simple, but there are alway a couple of people who are not willing to really accept this. People always want to work longer on their design because their parts can get lighter, better shinier...
    But in getting the car running early you can get a lot more points at comp than in having a car which is 0,452g lighter.

    While building the car everybody stays responsible for his part but that doesn't mean that he doesn't have to do only this. Work load in manufacturing can be very different depending on the part. At this point it should be clear that everybody has to help each other.

    And when competition comes near it gets time to search new members again and it starts all over again.

    I tried to keep this short, but although I didn't explain all my thoughts in every detail it got a bit long. Sorry for that.

    Looking forward to your comments.
    Rennteam Uni Stuttgart
    2008: Seat and Bodywork
    2009: Team captain

    GreenTeam Uni Stuttgart
    2010: Seat and Bodywork / Lamination whore

    Formula Student Austria
    2012: Operative Team

  3. #83
    What I would advice to any team is to start the season by going with your management and chiefs to some remote location away from your workshop and start drawing up your year.

    Think about every person's role in the team. Think about the design process. Think about sponsorship, your season goals, whether you want to burn up your team members or put a lesser burden on them so they can put their experience to use in the next year. Think about responsibilities and decision power of your chiefs and team members, especially for when shit hits the fan (because it will).

    Think about how you will get a winning team, how you want to stand out at the events. Think about your IT structure and how you involve your alumni. Think about which managerial roles you need to have, and which you actually do have, and how you will fill the gap. Think about how you will sell your project to sponsors. Think about what you want to improve incrementally, and what you want to redevelop from scratch.

    And only then start designing. I know this preparation takes some time, but this time will be paid back for easily during the year.

    There are a lot of ways that can be successful to run a team, depending on whether you have a previous car that works, how large and experienced your team is and what you want to achieve. This we can see on the many different ways of approaching FSAE. Try to tailor your approach to your specific team setting.

    Perhaps it's an idea to bundle best-practices into some sort of Body of Knowledge ?

    Stef de Jong
    DUT Racing
    Team Manager 08-09

  4. #84
    Originally posted by Bemo:
    But to do well at comp you mustn't forget to build a car. We always have three goals for a season: Finish the car in time, finish endurance, win the competition.
    ...
    So the bottomline is that you need a schedule and that you have to stick to it (that must sound so German...). Only this makes it possible to get your car done early enough before comp. And the points you can gain during these weeks by setup work, driver training etc. will bring you way more points than using this time for optimizing some design details.
    For a visualisation of this, see http://pgr.github.com/2011/02/...-visualisations.html - Each horizontal line represents a team, each vertical axis is an event. Click an axis to rank teams by colour for that event. Click and drag along an axis to filter over a range. Filtering over multiple events is cool.

    There are a few trends there, but looking at the endurance event, it does seem that there are points on offer for those who finish builds on time.

    Pete Ringwood
    UTS Motorsports

  5. #85
    After talking to some of the teams here....management is to simplify and standardize, not to complex things up.
    Conveyor Systems Design Engineer - EgyRoll
    AUMotorsports Team Leader 09-10
    Alexandria University, Egypt.

  6. #86
    RollingCamel,

    Not necessarily. The purpose of well defining your management structure and strategy is to avoid the destructive potential of the inevitable moment where someone says "It would be really great if we did this..." without following any of the design philosophies upon which the team agrees.

    Case in point: Noob walks in to a FSAE team and says: "Turbos make cars fast, we should have a turbo. Also, wings work great on Formula One cars, let's do that too. Ooo, and carbon fiber monocoque, allllll the teams that win have that too." If your team has 30+ people, that's fine. If you have 5, that's a big problem. The purpose of the management structure is to have a way to immediately eliminate ideas for which your team cannot or does not have the resources.
    No aerospace department? Probably means no wings.
    No testing track nearby? Probably means no wings and no fancy engine mods.
    Having a problem finishing a reliable car on time? Probably means your team is over-complicating their designs or over-estimating their skills.

    So, the management can complicate things initially, but in the end you'll thank yourself for doing it, or wish that you had done it years and years ago.
    Mississippi State Motorsports 2003-2010
    Everything but the kitchen sink

    ISMANS
    iMaster 2011
    Conception Auto Advancee par la Competition

  7. #87
    Originally posted by Pete R:
    For a visualisation of this, see http://pgr.github.com/2011/02/...-visualisations.html - Each horizontal line represents a team, each vertical axis is an event. Click an axis to rank teams by colour for that event. Click and drag along an axis to filter over a range. Filtering over multiple events is cool.
    The accel and skidpad data is switched. The team that won accel finished 2nd overall.
    "Gute Fahrer haben die Fliegenreste auf den Seitenscheiben."
    --Walter Röhrl

  8. #88
    I understand, but some just over complex it and make it inefficient just for showing off their managerial prowess while not realistically assessing their number, structure and team's abilities is. A complex efficient system is one that is complex create but simple to maintain and apply.

    The same bureaucracy can help but also may disconnect and inhibit the purpose.
    Conveyor Systems Design Engineer - EgyRoll
    AUMotorsports Team Leader 09-10
    Alexandria University, Egypt.

  9. #89
    Senior Member
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    To my experience FSAE teams usually are very far from over organising their teams.

    That's exactly the point about which people tend to argue. Everybody just wants to design and build a car. That whole organising stuff isn't why we are here.
    But all the work can get so much more efficient if you take the time to organise meetings and presentations. This is the only way to make sure that everybody is heading into the same directions. And very often during these meetings problems are recognized. And it is an old rule that the earlier you recognize a problem the less you suffer from it.

    Don't listen to your feeling when it tells you that all these meetings are wasted time. They aren't - communication is never lost time in such a project.
    Especially the team leaders' main task should be to organise the team. To know what everybody is doing. And that should be more or less their only task.
    It mite look like a waste of manpower to have two or three talented and dedicated mates who just organise the team (and that is only necessary/possible if you have 25+ team members). But they can make the work of all the others so much more efficient that the benefit of that is much bigger than if they would design and build parts of the car themselves.

    As said above these things are possible if you have enough team members. There are teams with only 5-10 mates pulling the whole thing. Of course in such a small team it doesn't make much sense to have 3 members just organising the work.
    Rennteam Uni Stuttgart
    2008: Seat and Bodywork
    2009: Team captain

    GreenTeam Uni Stuttgart
    2010: Seat and Bodywork / Lamination whore

    Formula Student Austria
    2012: Operative Team

  10. #90
    Sure, dedicating 3 people to org is impossible on a small team, but even on a small team of 5 the "leader(s)" need to have a plan. If you just attack a design one part at a time it never works very well.

    Spending a few days up front planning the design goals out, and then a couple of hours each week can be a big help to keeping a team on track and assessing where to cut losses and move on, etc.

    At work, one thing I often try to do is put together a list of short term to-do's/goals, med-term & long term; If you put those together every month (~1-2 hrs?) go ahead and see how you move towards that. If you know what the big goals are for every month, at the end of Month 3 or 4 you'll know how adept the team is at meeting those goals. At that point you'll decide how & when the need exists to start trimming projects that won't bring back enough return for the time investment.
    Red & Blue Racing '08

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