Dallara Automobili: Why It’s Not Enough to Be a Great Designer

“You can be in love with designing things,” says Luca Pignacca, chief designer at Dallara Automobili. “It is more difficult to be in love with organization.”

Exactly. That’s why we enjoy images of a nicely rendered racecar more than, say, a screenshot of a nicely managed database.

“Nonetheless,” Pignacca warns, “you can be the best designer in the world—your design can be perfect—but if it’s not organized, it’s finished.” He’s talking about data management, and he’s right of course. Our customers tell us all the time about how life before PTC Windchill included overwritten files, prototypes built up from outdated designs, and hard-to-find and share data. As competition ramps up, fewer and fewer product developers can afford those kinds of mistakes, and so product data management systems are becoming increasingly important. We’ll talk about that more in a minute. First, let’s get back to those racecars.

Dallara Automobili designs and builds chassis for world-class racecars. The company’s vehicles dominate the Formula 3 and IndyCar lineup. And its models have won a dozen Indianapolis 500 championships so far.

Based in Parma, Italy, engineers at Dallara have built chassis for Toyota, Audi, and Chrysler. In fact, every weekend, about 300 Dallara cars race on circuits all over the world. They’ve even partnered with KTM on the KTM X-Bow. Recent supercar clients have included Alfa Romeo (8C and 4C), Audi (DTM and LeMans series), Bugatti (Veyron), Ferrari, Porsche, and Maserati (MC12). And they’ve recently opened an IndyCar factory/visitor’s facility in the US.

It’s a busy shop, with more than 180 employees (50 of whom hold engineering doctorates). Have a look at some of their work and inside the shop:

Dallara engineers have been designing those slick racers with PTC CAD tools since 1993, today, they use PTC Creo. And when they adopted a data management system for their CAD files, they turned to PTC Pro/INTRALINK. Within a workgroup, PTC Pro/INTRALINK provided a central vault and revision control. It helped non-CAD users access files they needed. And it made sure that changes were communicated throughout the team.

Then, a few years ago, Dallara started thinking bigger.

The company envisioned a data management system that extended across its whole enterprise to promote company-wide communication, collaboration, and information sharing. If all product development data sat on one virtual system, the company could improve efficiency and performance and reduce costs—much like had already occurred in the design workgroup.

So the company scaled up its data management solution by deploying PTC Windchill PDMLink and PTC Windchill ProjectLink for the whole enterprise.

“Now, I can see the bill of materials for a car, or any project, with all the information related to it – not just CAD drawings, but calculations, invoices, costs, failure reports, and so on,” says Pignacca.

And so can every other department (with permissions, of course), including design, manufacturing, production, purchasing, and even administration. They can contribute their unique data as well. Plus, the PTC Windchill products work on a fully secure, web-based communication protocol. So data is easy to reach and update.

The overall impact?

  • Better performance and lower costs.
  • Product-related information is managed, shared, and secure across the enterprise.
  • All departments share a single source of accurate product development information.
  • The company fully controls user access to data at all lifecycle stages.
  • Versions are managed, but accessible.

“Good designs are not enough now, because of the competition, because of cutting of margins, because people are expecting a lot,” says Pignacca. “You simply need organization and product lifecycle management, period.”

Ed – Interested in being part of a team designing racecars? Join Formula SAE®. Formula SAE promotes careers and excellence in engineering as it encompasses all aspects of the automotive industry including research, design, manufacturing, testing, developing, marketing, management and finances. Formula SAE takes students out of the classroom and allows them to apply textbook theories to real work experiences.

Listen to current Dallara employees on how Formula SAE helped them: