Applying a Complex System Architecture Evaluation Method to the 2005 Ford GT 200 MPH Supercar


MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar SeriesScott Ahlman

Scott Ahlman, MIT SDM Alumnus
President, Ahlman Engineering, Inc.

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Date: January 28, 2013

About the Presentation

Through painful experience, many companies have learned that they cannot develop a way out of an architecture issue that is uncovered late in the product development process, such as in the verification (hardware and tooling) stage. If a company gets the architecture right at the front end, it can achieve a huge competitive advantage over the short and long term. If it gets the architecture wrong, the results can be costly. Therefore, a rigorous approach to system architecture at the front end of system design is essential. No longer can a chief engineer rely primarily on experience-based intuition rather than a rigorous process and methods.

This webinar presents a hierarchical synthesis of known qualitative and quantitative architecting tools and methods and explains how it was applied to the powertrain system of the 2005 Ford GT Supercar. It will demonstrate how the powertrain architecture decision was critical to achieving the system goals within previously unmatched timing and resource constraints and discuss their impact on final results. This approach can be applied across industries and products.

About the Speaker

Scott Ahlman has 19 years experience in automotive product development and performance engineering.

Ahlman spent 12 years at Ford Motor Company as an engineer in chassis design, vehicle dynamics and systems. His experience there included light truck passenger car work followed by a short stint with NASCAR Craftsman Trucks, and six years in the open wheel CART ChampCar racing series for Ford Racing with Team Rahal. The highlight of his career included chassis design, vehicle dynamics and system engineering/architecture/optimization on the 2005 Ford GT 200 MPH Supercar from start to finish.

In 2006, Ahlman left Ford to start his own company, Ahlman Engineering, which initially focused on racing and provided chassis/vehicle dynamics engineering support in the Indy Racing League for Rahal Letterman Racing. Over the last 6 years, he has led the Roush-Fenway Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup chassis/vehicle dynamics and systems engineering/optimization through an independent contract with Ford Racing. In this role, Scott has made significant contributions to 29 NASCAR Sprint Cup wins, including two second place finishes in the championship and winner of the 2007 “Jack” Roush MVP Award. Ahlman Engineering now provides beginning-to-end automotive-focused product development services.

As an MIT SDM alumnus, Ahlman holds an MS in Engineering and Management with a system architecture emphasis. He also earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

About the Series

The MIT System Design and Management Program Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges.