COMPANY : McLAREN : A TECHNOLOGY COMPANY

McLaren - A Technology Company

The McLaren organisation has broadened its field of operations and its range of competences progressively since 1980 when Ron Dennis merged his Project 4 organisation with the McLaren racing team.  The process of corporate growth based on motor racing success resulted in more business locations being added to the McLaren portfolio.  Ultimately, it became clear that the McLaren Group would need a new facility in which all McLaren companies could be housed under the same roof, enabling better communication within and between them, thereby improving performance. Today, McLaren is a technology organisation consisting of six companies within the McLaren Technology Centre (Woking, England): McLaren Automotive and five businesses within the McLaren Group. 

McLaren Technology Centre (MTC)

Ron Dennis and his fellow shareholders had the vision to realise that an all-encompassing headquarters would strengthen the McLaren business, so in 1995 the company acquired 50 hectares of land close to the then hub of McLaren operations in Woking.  It was the start of an exciting and time-consuming process to bring this vision to reality. The plan was to create a visually-arresting yet functional building that espoused the values and philosophies of the McLaren Group, while at the same time providing a stimulating working environment for over 1,000 employees.

The first challenge was planning permission.  McLaren employed Foster +Partners as lead architects, the company headed by Lord Foster. By 1997 outline planning permission was granted and detail design began. 

The groundbreaking took place in 1998 and the site was prepared by excavating 150,000 cubic metres of earth to form the basis for car parking and to build an earth dam around the perimeter of the building.  The building design was of three stories but the lowest was to be below ground level to ensure the building sat in sympathy to its surroundings.

By 2000 the foundations were laid and landscaping began.  The following year the shape of the building began to take place:  the steel skeleton was clad in glass and aluminium, the flooring prepared and the wind tunnel installed.   This was followed by power and heating installation, fitting staircases and lifts, profiling the lake and final landscaping including planting 100,000 trees and shrubs.

In May 2003 the assembly hall and paint lines for the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren production operation were prepared and production began in August.  The other McLaren companies moved in one by one with the race team arriving last, in April 2004.  The MTC was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh on May 12, 2004.

Environmentally sound both for nature and the workforce

The landscaping and addition of trees was by no means the only move to create an ecologically-sustainable environment.  The Technology Centre itself has a 20,000 square metre footprint on a 50 hectare site.  Public access to many areas of the land has been improved and an area of land restored as wild flower meadowland.  This, in turn, has encouraged the return of valuable flora and fauna, including wild orchids and otters.

Part of the Foster+Partners’ brief was for the building to sustain itself in various ways.  The roof is designed to drain rainwater into the lake which itself is responsible for cooling the building; the lake sits above the ambient temperature as it draws warm air out of the MTC, and the water is cleaned by filtration through natural reed beds. The wall of glass on the outer skin of the building maximises natural light to provide a comfortable working environment and minimizes reliance on traditional energy consumption.

For the 1,000 employees, it is a short walk from one glazed ‘finger’ of the building to another, which enhances and speeds up communication channels between businesses. This nurtures cross-fertilization of ideas and stimulates creativity within the McLaren group of companies.  On a corporate level, the MTC is a showcase for the McLaren’s capabilities and a home of which the company feels proud. It also exists as a visitor centre for schools, charities and many other guests, currently displaying cars such as Bruce McLaren’s very first Austin 7 racing car, the company’s debut-winning Le Mans F1, and the car that took Lewis Hamilton to the 2008 Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship.

There are many interesting facts about the MTC:  here are just a few. In plan form the MTC and lake together form a perfect circle; the facility occupies 57,000 square feet – enough space to house nine Boeing 747 jumbo jets; the lake contains 50,000 cubic metres of water; there is 40kms of pipe work within the building and over 500,000metres of cabling

A portrait of the six companies at the McLaren Technology Centre

The MTC houses five companies of the McLaren Group – Applied Technologies, Electronic Systems, Marketing, Racing, Absolute Taste – and the McLaren Automotive division which was spun-off as in independent McLaren company in 2009.

McLaren Automotive

Founded in 1989 as McLaren Cars to produce the F1 supercar, the company is now making a major step forward with ambitious plans to produce a range of high performance sports cars.

Building on the huge critical success of the McLaren F1 (1993-98), and the sales success of the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (2003-09), both of which have pioneered carbon composite body technology and active aerodynamics, the new company is preparing to introduce ground-breaking levels of technology and performance in a more affordable category of the sports car market. Beginning with the McLaren MP4-12C in 2011.

A bespoke production facility, the McLaren Production Centre (MPC) is planned for the MTC site that will enable ultimate production of up to 20 McLaren sports cars a day and support over 800 direct jobs and an estimated additional 1,500 indirectly in the local economy. Planning permission for the MPC was granted in August ’09.

The first in the new range of McLaren cars – the 12C, a high performance and technically-advanced two-seat sports car – will be delivered to customers worldwide from 2011 through a dedicated McLaren dealer network.

The SLR range, McLaren Automotive’s most recent product, has proven the company’s ability to combine hand-built high-quality production techniques by highly-skilled technicians to volume car production lean manufacturing processes for ultimate efficiency. These manufacturing techniques, unburdened by the clutter of airlines and other traditional automotive workshop equipment, will be employed for 12C production ensuring that the new range of McLaren models will be built in a similarly clean, calm and efficient environment.

The MTC allows the whole car launch team - design, development, engineering, purchasing, testing, production, marketing, sales and aftersales - to be fully integrated within a few metres of each other.  Potential customers are, today, able to see the Formula 1 workshops alongside the existing SLR Stirling Moss production line and understand for themselves that the link between the road and race cars is tangible and visible.

McLaren Racing

As Formula 1 became more demanding in terms of technology and research, McLaren Racing’s operations grew to accommodate the opportunities.  This led to the various parts of the team occupying seven different buildings.  The move to MTC has provided 30 per cent more space for the team as well as easier access to the other McLaren companies and facilities, including the wind tunnel, simulator and materials research.  At the time of the move the team took the opportunity to renew its manufacturing equipment to state of the art levels.

After 28 years as Team Principal of the racing team Ron Dennis handed over the reins to long time CEO Martin Whitmarsh in January 2009.

McLaren Electronic Systems (MES)

McLaren’s successes on the track in the 1980s were partly down to its mastery of, and pioneering approach to, electronics.  This was the era when mechanical fuel injection made way for electronics which were both more reliable and more efficient.  As the decade moved on more and more car systems came under the influence of electronics.

In a prescient move McLaren formed its own electronics company in 1989 so that it could be master of its own destiny.  Today, McLaren Electronic Systems not only supplies the racing team, it also is a supplier to the worldwide motor sport industry.  MES is the official supplier to the FIA Formula 1 World Championship for 2008/9/10 which means it supplies all Formula 1 teams and engine makers with electronics and software.  MES also supplies the Indy Racing League, America’s foremost open wheel series, NASCAR, Moto GP as well as applications for rallying and sports car racing.

More recently, MES has diversified into producing electronic systems for high performance road cars such as the SLR and even into non-automotive applications.

The advantages conferred by motor sport in this field are quick reaction times, therefore speedy development, and manufacturing to a high and consistent level of quality.

McLaren Marketing

McLaren Marketing has long been established to support McLaren’s partners in Formula 1 ensuring that they maximise their return on investment and add value to their involvement.  There is no time during the year when a marketing activity is not being organised somewhere in the world by McLaren Marketing, be it exhibitions, personal appearances by drivers, photography, filming or media exposure.

 McLaren Marketing is a full service provider that does not simply benchmark itself against others in motor sport.  It looks to the major sporting events such as the Olympics or football’s World Cup to strive to match the best in the world.  The result is some of the longest sponsorship relationships in sporting history including 28 years with HUGO BOSS and long relationships with Vodafone, ExxonMobil, DIAGEO, SAP and Santander.  Services include Partner management, VIP hospitality, event support, business development, media relations and graphic design.

McLaren Applied Technologies (MAT)

McLaren Applied Technologies was formed in 2004 to identify and manage projects that leverage technology and expertise within the McLaren Group and apply them beyond the core business of motor sport and automotive.  MAT licences intellectual property within the Group and derives commercial opportunities from them. 

McLaren’s formidable research and development capacity is attractive to other technology companies and MAT has attracted interest in its properties from diverse industries.   For example, a major healthcare company used MAT to develop a system for collecting real time data from patients.  The result was quicker, more accurate diagnosis.

Absolute Taste

Absolute Taste was founded in 1997 to provide fine cuisine at Formula 1 events.  It delivers high quality meals for up to 100 team personnel and 100 VIP guests including media and dignitaries at each Grand Prix event.

Since the McLaren Technology Centre was opened Absolute Taste has managed a 350 seat restaurant for the 1,000 employees and provides catering for the offices, boardrooms and in-house private dining rooms named after McLaren’s world champion drivers.

The company has expanded its remit more recently with high quality event management and its reputation has led to the opening of restaurants in, and around, London at Chelsea Harbour and at Farnborough airport.