Mar 23 2024


It’s not so much that Excel is a bad place to store your parts catalogue as it is that it’s a less than ideal starting point if you go no further than dumping your data in Excel:

It is not an exaggeration to say that up to and including at least the initial work on the 2024 Williams, its car builds were handled using Microsoft Excel, with a list of around 20,000 individual components and parts.

Unsurprisingly, ex-Mercedes man Vowles - someone used to class-leading operations and systems — had a damning verdict for that: The Excel list was a joke. Impossible to navigate and impossible to update.”

Managing a car build is not just about listing all the components needed. There wasn’t data on the cost of components, how long they took to build, how many were in the system to be built.

[…] When you start tracking now hundreds of 1000s of components through your organisation moving around, an Excel spreadsheet is useless.”

You need to know where each one of those independent components are, how long it will take before it’s complete, how long it will take before it goes to inspection. If there’s been any problems with inspections, whether it has to go back again.”

And once you start putting that level of complexity in which is where modern Formula 1 is, the Excel spreadsheet falls over, and humans fall over. And that’s exactly where we are.”

I have a vision of some poor intern at the back the garage1 working their way through an in-tray, which is struggling to contain a huge pile of printouts2 listing changes that needed to be entered into the spreadsheet YESTERDAY. Not a fun or glamorous job, even if you get to wear the pit crew’s uniform for Williams Racing.

Fair to say that Williams Racing Team Principal James Vowles is talking about this so that in a couple of years time he’ll be able to reassure us that WilliamsF1Parts2024.xlsx is a thing of the past.3 Hopefully by then Williams will be a bit further up the leaderboard (if only on the principle that other teams might be having a worse time that year.)

[Via The Overspill]

  1. Or even back at the factory, to add that extra bit of lag to the process.↩︎

  2. Printouts of emails, possibly?↩︎

  3. It probably helps that Microsoft are not currently one of Williams Racing’s sponsors. (Microsoft currently sponsor BWT Alpine F1. A discussion about the shortcomings of Excel might be a bit awkward to have with one of your current sponsors. Worse yet, Microsoft might try to persuade Williams that the answer to their problems lies in switching to Microsoft Teams. Not even Power BI could help Williams Racing.↩︎