Robotics

Ford testing Boston Dynamics robodogs at Michigan plant

Robot shaped like dogs are being used by Ford to replace humans for certain tasks.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Fluffy and Spot are bringing their four-legged athleticism and efficiency to Ford's Van Dyke Transmission Plant in a move that could end up saving money and speed up the turnaround time between the production of various models.

In addition to sitting, shaking hands, and rolling over, the 70-pound dog-shaped robots, whom their handler Paula Wiebelhaus named, are able to perform 360-degree camera scans, handling 30-degree grades, and climb for hours at a time. As workers, they are unmatched by humans at these tasks.

Ford Boston Dynamics robot dogs Their agility allows them to climb steep stairs.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford is leasing the bright yellow robots as part of a program aimed at reducing cost and increasing efficiency at the company's plants.

The duo are each equipped with five cameras and can travel up to 3 mph. Their battery life is nearly two hours.

Ford has established a roster of activities for them to accomplish. The robots will be used to scan the plant floor and assist engineers in updating the original Computer Aided Design, which is utilized when Ford is getting ready to retool their plants.

"We design and build the plant. After that, over the years, changes are made that rarely get documented," said Mark Goderis, Ford's digital engineering manager. "By having the robots scan our facility, we can see what it actually looks like now and build a new engineering model. That digital model is then used when we need to retool the plant for new products."

Ford Boston Dynamics robot dogs The robots are designed to avoid collisions with other objects, including people.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Typically, this process is arduous, time consuming, and expensive. It costs nearly $300,000 to scan one facility. Should Fluffy and Spot prove competent, the scanning process could be done for a fraction of the cost.

"We used to use a tripod, and we would walk around the facility stopping at different locations, each time standing around for five minutes waiting for the laser to scan," Goderis said. "Scanning one plant could take two weeks. With Fluffy's help, we are able to do it in half the time."

Ford Boston Dynamics robot dogs Unlike real dogs, the models require no pets, but they do need plenty of time to recharge their batteries after a long day at work.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Currently, the robots can be programmed to follow a specific path and are able to be operated from up to 50 meters away with a tablet application. Eventually, Ford expects that the company will be able to operate the robots remotely, programming them for plant missions and receiving reports from anywhere in the country.

For now, Wiebelhaus will control the robots and is able to see the footage that their cameras are picking up. Should it be necessary to immediately shut down the robots, Wiebelhaus is able to do so so via the app.

Meet Fluffy the Robot Dog | Innovation | Ford youtu.be

Just as dogs can walk on stable ground, uneven terrain, and stairs, so can the robots. The machines can also change from a crouch to a stretch. If they fall, they are designed to right themselves. The robots are also programmed to maintain safe distancing from objects and people to avoid collisions and interference.

Fluffy isn't just relying on its legs to roam around. According to Ford, “At times, Fluffy sits on its robotic haunches and rides on the back of a small, round Autonomous Mobile Robot, known informally as Scouter. Scouter glides smoothly up and down the aisles of the plant, allowing Fluffy to conserve battery power until it's time to get to work. Scouter can autonomously navigate facilities while scanning and capturing 3-D point clouds to generate a CAD of the facility. If an area is too tight for Scouter, Fluffy comes to the rescue."

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Journalists gather around Jim Farley, then-Ford executive vice president and president of global markets, during the media days at the 2018 North American International Auto Show.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company has announced that Jim Farley will succeed Jim Hackett as the CEO of the company beginning October 1. Who is Jim Farley? AutomotiveMap takes a closer look at the man and his rise to the top of one of the most heralded automakers in the world.

The beginning

James D. “Jim" Farley Jr.'s history with Ford and the auto industry started long before he joined the company in 2007. The Argentina-born Farley's grandfather Emmet E. Tracy, was a worker at Ford in the company's early days, working at the company's Rouge River Plant beginning in 1914 when he was just 13 years old. Farley credits his grandfather for spurring his love of automobiles.

Jim Hackett Jim Farley CEO Outgoing CEO Jim Hackett and incoming CEO Jim Farley chart in front of an image of the employee card of Farley's grandfather, Emmet Tracy, an early Ford employee.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

When he was 10 years old, Farley had a paper route in Connecticut that included a local Ferrari distributorship. He says that he would spend hours there chatting up the Italian mechanics.

Tracy would eventually leave the Ford plant to become a Ford dealer and own a Ford supplier plant. Farley worked at that plant one summer when he was 15. The summer before that, he says he spend working at a shop rebuilding car engines. He would eventually buy a '66 Ford Mustang with a blown engine, restoring it for himself, complete with a 289 V8.

Farley is a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He earned a bachelor's degree In economics and computer science. Farley got his MBA from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He put himself through school by working at a Santa Monica vehicle-restoration shop that was run by former Formula One champion Phil Hill - Hill & Vaughn on Second Street.

Jim Farley Ford 10 Millionth Mustang Ford (and Farley) celebrated the production of the 10 millionth Mustang at its Dearborn headquarters and its Flat Rock Assembly Plant, including flyovers from three WWII-era P-51 Mustang fighter planes and Mustangs produced for more than five decades parading from Dearborn to Flat Rock.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Toyota years

He started his automaker career at Toyota, a move that he says some of his family members resented. However, it was Farley's grandfather who encouraged him saying. Farley told it to Automotive News like this: “He said, 'You should go to Toyota. It's the best car company for now. You can come back to Detroit.'"

And so he did. Farley joined Toyota in 1990 as part of the company's strategic planning department. He moved through marketing and product positions in the U.S. and Europe eventually serving as the man responsible for the successful launch and rollout of the Scion brand.

He went on to hold roles including group vice president of Toyota Division marketing and was responsible for all Toyota Division market planning, advertising, merchandising, sales promotion, incentives and internet activities. He also was the group vice president and general manager of Lexus, responsible for all sales, marketing and customer satisfaction activities.

Toyota Scion tC Jim Farley, working in his then-role as Scion vice president, poses with the new tC Sports Coupe at the North American International Auto Show January 5, 2004 in Detroit, Michigan.Photo by Getty Images

Farley did make it back to Detroit during those days, every January as the North American International Auto Show kicked off. It was during that annual pilgrimage that Farley would visit his grandparents' graves. “"I wipe off the snow, if it's snowing, and I talk about my life," Farley said, before pausing and turning his head to the side. "I'm going to get really emotional — son of a b----, I'm not supposed to do that as an executive — anyway, it's the real deal for me. It's not about money," Automotive News reported in 2007.

The switch to Ford

Farley and his wife Lia are the parents of three children. The couple adopted a baby girl in 2007 before Lia gave birth to their son. When he took his first job with Ford as marketing chief in 2007, it was on the heels of a difficult time for the family that had seen his wife spend the last three months of her pregnancy in the hospital as Farley, with the help of neighbors, took care of their daughter and finalized his deal with Ford, Automotive News reported at the time.

While Farley got up and running at Ford, he would travel back home to California on the weekends to be with his family before finally settling them all in Michigan once his daughter's adoption was finalized. Even in 2007, his commitment to Ford was strong, saying at the time, "I'm going to be there forever. I didn't trade in my life in Santa Monica to move around every two years. I'm a car guy. There's only two car companies I really like, and I'm on the second one."

Jim Farley 2013 New York Auto Show Jim Farley, serving in his then-role as Ford executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales and Service and Lincoln, discusses the consumer trends and demographic shifts that are reshaping the U.S. auto industry at the 2013 New York International Auto Show.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Big moves at Ford

After two years on the job at Ford, Farley was appointed group vice president, global marketing and Canada, Mexico and South America. He had added responsibility for Ford's operations in Canada, Mexico and South America in September 2009.

In August 2010 when Farley was appointed to lead global marketing sales and service, it marked the first time Ford had a single global leader for Marketing, Sales & Service. He had the added role of he senior global leader for Lincoln from December 2012 to August 2014. It was during his time as executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales & Service at Lincoln where the brand began its turnaround, setting the course for the company to decliner the types of vehicles it is offering today. He also lead Lincoln's introduction to China.

Lincoln Aviator Launch 2018 New York Auto Show During the New York International Auto Show in 2018, Jim Farley speaks in front of the just-revealed Lincoln Avaitor.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

From 2015 to 2017, Farley served as executive vice president and president, Ford Europe, Middle East and Africa. His tenure included milestones of record profitability, record margins, and increased sales.

In use 2017 he was named Executive Vice President and president, Global Markets, for Ford Motor Company. Company CEO Jim Hackett tapped Farley to be the president of New Businesses, Technology and Strategy in April 2019. In that role, he was tasked with helping the company determine how to capitalize on powerful forces reshaping the industry – such as software platforms, connectivity, AI, automation and new forms of propulsion.

Jim Farley Ken Block LAAS Fiesta launch Jim Farley, then-Group Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford Motor Company with Action sports superstar, Ken Block after he drove his Gymkhana Ford Fiesta at Universal Studios on the eve of the Los Angeles Auto Show.Photo by Sam VarnHagen, courtesy of Ford Motor Company

In February of this year, Farley was named chief operating officer of Ford Motor Company, taking over for Joe Hinrichs and solidifying his position as the next CEO of the company. In a press conference on August 3, 2020, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said that the board talked about looking at external candidates for CEO, but they never actually did because Farley was the obvious choice.

What type of person is Farley? A story in the Detroit Free Press earlier this year said this of him:

“Jim Farley is the guy who prefers to be dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, spending time in a garage wrenching on classic Mustangs and vintage motorcycles. He respects men and women who have oil-stained clothes, busted knuckles and grease under their nails. He appreciates people who do engine and body work themselves.“

He's not a Man who spends his time chatting with old pals at the country club over a game of golf. To achieve relaxation, he races his 1965 Ford GT40 around tracks far and near.

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Jim Hackett, President and CEO, Ford Motor Company delivers the keynote address to media and guests at the 2018 CEO.

Photo by Sam VarnHagen, courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company has announced that President and CEO Jim Hackett, 65, will retire. Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley, 58, will take over that role, effective October 1. Hackett will continue to serve as a special advisor to the company through March 2021.

Ford's Executive Chairman Bill Ford, who is the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford as well as tire magnate Harvey Firestone, joined Farley and Hackett at a press conference on Tuesday morning to share the news.

Hackett took over the role of CEO on May 22, 2017, succeeding Mark Fields. While Fields concentrated much of his Public energy on visions of the tomorrow of 50 years from now, Hackett marked his tenure with moves designed to help Ford's bottom line today while planning for the future.

"My goal when I took on the CEO role was to prepare Ford to win in the future," Hackett said. "The hardest thing for a proud, long-lived company to do is change to meet the challenges of the world it's entering rather than the world it has known. I'm very proud of how far we have come in creating a modern Ford and I am very optimistic about the future.

"I have worked side-by-side with Jim Farley for the past three years and have the greatest confidence in him as a person and a leader," Hackett said. "He has been instrumental in crafting our new product portfolio and redesigning our businesses around the world. He is also a change agent with a deep understanding of how to lead Ford in this new era defined by smart vehicles in a smart world."

During his tenure, Ford has discontinued most of its cars while bringing SUVs and trucks to the forefront. Hackett oversaw the launch of the new Escape and Explorer in the U.S. as well as the debut of the next-generation of Ford F-150, a new-for-the-U.S. Ranger, the company's best-selling model, and fresh lineup infusions in the form of the Mustang Mach-E all-electric crossover, the Bronco family of products, and a bevy of Mustang variants.

His time at the top will also be remembered for efforts to streamline the business practices of a company that could fairly be described as bloated with bureaucracy. While plants were shuttered to modernize production and jobs were lost as Ford moved to a more direct and modern way of conducting business, Hackett also approved changing Ford's marketing and advertising to a new agency model, changing out to BBDO as creative lead over W+P, which had served the company for 75 years.

Hackett also formed a partnership with Volkswagen Group to develop and distribute electric vehicle technology - a costly venture for companies to undertake on their own. He is also credited with encouraging the development of smart mobility solutions and sustainability practices.

However, Wall Street investors have not been kind to the company during Hackett’s tenure, even as the company allocated $11 billion toward restructuring in an effort to be better prepared for the future. The company is expected to turn a $4-5 billion profit in the second half of 2020 according to Ford CFO Dhivya Suryadevara. In contrast, Tesla, a company that turned its first annual profit ($104 million) in 2019 and has notable quality control, reliability, and human resources issues, has seen its stock soar in recent years.

Prior to his tenure at Ford, Hackett was vice chairman of Steelcase, the global leader in the office furniture industry.

This story is developing and will be updated as new details are available.

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