McLaren Automotive: Racing Ahead With Real-Time Connected Intelligence

Richard Howells

McLaren Automotive’s entry-level 570S Coupé packs 562 horsepower that rockets the car from 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds. But that’s nothing compared with the speed of the company’s real-time connected intelligence.

Based in Woking, England, McLaren designs and manufactures sports and luxury cars. Most are produced in-house at designated production facilities. And increasingly, the company relies on Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

I caught up with Craig Charlton, CIO of McLaren Technology Group, in May at SAPPHIRE NOW, where we discussed McLaren’s IoT journey.

One strategy, four units, five transformers

McLaren is pursuing a single IT strategy: “to deliver core solutions, core platforms, and winning platforms.” But it needs to execute that strategy across four business units, each of which requires a different approach to IT:

  1. McLaren Automotive — Manufactures high-performance sports and luxury cars
  2. McLaren Racing — Races to win in Grands Prix and World Championships
  3. McLaren Applied Technologies — Applies advanced technologies and designs across markets as diverse as health and energy to achieve performance breakthroughs
  4. McLaren Commercial — Identifies and enriches partnerships to drive business success

The company is achieving its IT goals through its “Transformational Big Five:”

  1. Business platforms — Advanced business platforms support processes in each of McLaren’s four units.
  2. Cloud and mobility — With 2,800 of the company’s 3,400 employees on mobile devices, cloud is everywhere.
  3. Managed risk — By migrating from legacy systems, McLaren is reducing cybersecurity vulnerabilities and managing risk.
  4. People-centricity — IT is central to how McLaren’s people do business every day.
  5. Partners — McLaren has been co-innovating with SAP for more than 20 years.

Internet of (very fast) Things

But some of the most exciting IT at McLaren revolves around IoT. And as Craig explains, IoT is hardly new at McLaren. “We’ve been using IoT-type technology since 1993,” he says, “when we first put telemetry on our racing cars to analyze race performance.”

Today, at a typical race, the company has 150 to 300 car sensors tracking everything from tire pressure to brake wear to G-force. These sensors generate more than 100 GB of data every race weekend — producing 11.8 billion data points per season and 1080 race permutations in real time, so the race team can ask questions like, “How many times did Fernando Alonso pull 6G in the last race?” — and get the answer in two or three seconds.

“The data has truly transformed how we race,” Craig says. “Solutions like SAP HANA have allowed us to track billions of data points and look at historical data going back 24 years. In fact, we can analyze about 1 trillion data points.”

Fine-tuning race cars, transforming business models

What makes IoT mission-critical to McLaren is the ability to gain new insights to improve performance. By analyzing its Big Data, the company can identify nuggets that help it fine-tune its cars and be faster around the track.

But the company also expects to leverage real-time connected intelligence to improve the performance of its business. “IoT is going to change many organizations from being product-based to being service-based,” Craig predicts. “In the automotive industry, when we talk about autonomous cars, customers may be looking to buy a unit of travel rather than a car.”

For companies in the automotive and many other industries, business change is hardly slowing down. Real-time connected intelligence will help them stay ahead of the curve.

To learn more about McLaren’s IoT journey, watch Craig’s SAPPHIRE NOW presentation or listen to a one-on-one interview with Craig.

To see Craig and 50 other industry experts in person, attend SAP Leonardo Live, July 11 and 12 at the Kap Europa Congress Center in Frankfurt, Germany. The event will bring together a vibrant global community of up to 1,500 IoT, manufacturing, supply chain, R&D, and operations decision makers, influencers, analysts, and media. Learn firsthand from more than 50 SAP customer showcases how to connect IoT and core business processes to achieve digital transformation.


About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.