In the first of a series of in-depth chats with some of Cosworth’s key players, Managing Director of Powertrain, Bruce Wood took time out of his busy schedule to reflect on his passion for engineering, how the company has rolled with the times, and how he remains motivated – even when working from home!
What inspired you to become an engineer?
I’ve always found beauty in well-designed products and enjoyed making things, so I had early aspirations to be involved in design. I studied all the appropriate modules as part of a Mechanical Engineering BSc degree, and it went from there. Knowing how hard it is to achieve small things in engineering, I have long been awed by big things – ship, railway and bridge builders, people like Brunel. And John Barnard, in my lifetime, father of many racing innovations and the strength of character to move Ferrari development to Guildford!”
What have been some of the most impressive inventions or innovations in your opinion over the past 60 years?
The internet has changed the world in many ways – some good, some bad. Looking at the current situation, it is hard to imagine how we would have kept businesses running and family and friends communicating without it.
How does a Managing Director manage working from home in circumstances like these?
Like many people I have spoken to, working from home has turned out to be easier than I thought. In fact, if anything it is easier to get hold of people as they will be at home, rather than somewhere across our 11-factory site. It is lonely, though. Like many people though I am looking forward to when we can return to a normal office environment.
How do you keep the workforce motivated and energised?
I try to send round regular updates and keep us focussed on as much normality as we can. Whilst COVID-19 is underlying every hour of every day of course, then we are trying to focus on our delivery to customers the same as we did before and will do after. Working remotely demands a willingness from everyone to make it work. Fortunately, this is something we have in spades.
How can Cosworth play a role in changing the face of engineering and manufacturing in the future?
The watch words for the future will be flexibility and adaptability. There will always be a need for world-class engineering and manufacturing, but the applications will change. Cosworth has reinvented itself before, and we are well placed for future challenges. Cosworth’s USPs are its complete end-to-end capability, experience and its mindset. A lot of changed in how we work, and on what we work, although the engine remains at the centre of most of it. This change will continue. What defines Cosworth has always been our ‘spirit’, which comes from the people. Cosworth has always been more than the sum of its parts, always punched above its weight, and I like to think there’s a little bit of magic dust in there. Always has been, and hopefully always will be.
With what projects have you been most proudly associated over the years?
Designing the 1996 IndyCar engine was a lifetime ambition realised, the decade heading up American racing was incredibly rewarding. 2003 was also a special moment, when we back-to-back tested our Indy engine and were so much faster than the established engine. Becoming Managing Director, getting us into sustainable profit. And of course, I can add to that now the incredible team effort of the Easter weekend in responding to the call to deliver medical ventilator parts to help in the battle against COVID-19.
Cosworth is still widely known for the DFV engine. What other hidden gems have flown under the radar comparatively?
In the 1990s, we were very successful in IndyCar racing, which is not so well known. Then, in F1, the 2006 CA engine was much better than its results showed. A real hidden gem is the AG – a 12bhp diesel, two-stroke drone engine. This represents all the best things of Cosworth but hardly anyone ever hears of it.
What will define the 2020s?
Within our industry a coalescing of the wide-ranging views and opinions on the role of electrification and the Internal Combustion Engine in transport. The debate needs to become less divisive to progress
What do you expect Cosworth to be best known for in the next decade?
Excelling at what we do, providing a service which can’t be had anywhere else, providing a second family for the employees. It could be in any number of areas, but our experience lies in mechanical design, development and manufacture of propulsion devices, so likely this is where we will continue to focus. Cosworth is all about designing and making efficient machines – in fact, motor racing, where we started, is only about efficiency in many ways, whether it is power-to-weight ratio or specific fuel consumption. This focus on efficiency has never been more relevant, in new and future propulsion systems – whatever they are fuelled by!
What is your leadership style?
Decisive. Not always rightly, of course, but I am generally of the view that action is better than inaction. Roger Penske put his success down to just making more decisions than others, so there is a precedent I am following, while hopefully empowering along the way.
What three things can you not live without in your work life?
Coffee, a sense of humour and a sense of purpose.
Finally, what advice would you offer to young people interested in pursuing a STEM career?
There is a huge array of careers in engineering, so investigate all the options. If you have ever been curious about how something works, or picked up a pencil, sketched an idea on the back of an envelope, a career in engineering might just be for you…