Day Two – Ford Rouge Plant

I began my tour of Detroit with a visit to the Ford manufacturing plant in Dearborn. I decided that it would be beneficial to visit the factory and view the current state of automobile manufacturing. I took a tour of the Ford F-150 truck assembly plant at the Rouge complex. This building was only a speck on the map in what is an extensive manufacturing giant. This building is known for its green roof, which is considered the largest in the world. The plant was showcasing its “green” initiatives quite extensively. William McDonough worked with Ford in 1999 to restore the factory and grounds as well as improve the grounds, buildings, and operation through sustainable measures. This was most evident at the observation deck which overlooked the plant.

The plant operations are a well-oiled machine and the way these vehicles come together is amazing. All of the operations of the plant work together in a symbiotic relationship. One hiccup in the line affects everyone. As a matter of fact, at one point we witnessed a snafu in the line when a tailgate would not fit properly in the truck bed, shutting the line down while the unit was adjusted. The portion of the manufacturing process we saw was only a small area of the entire process. The rich history of Ford was amazing, and witnessing the manufacturing process was truly a sight I never imagined. The tour also included a few videos on the history of Ford, and the transformations that have occurred over the generations of these vehicles.

As I walked around the plant and watched the employees in action, their movements almost effortless, I began to wonder what it would be like to work in one of these plants. You are stationed at a position in the manufacturing line and are tasked with doing a particular job for the entire day. Your job may be to put a piece of trim on a door and then add the side mirror casing to the door before it heads to the next station to receive the door speakers and mirror glass. You do this task all day, other than your 30 minute lunch break. I am sure that you are moved around to various stations in order to break up the monotony, but you are still completing a similar task day in and day out. I believe you would have to have patience to complete this work year round.

What are these employees thinking as they are completing their work? Are they considering different ways to complete the work? Do they go home at night and draw up their own designs for the next great vehicle? Or do they worry about a robot taking their job? Surprisingly, there were very little robotics involved in the process of putting these cars together. A pair of robots put the windshield on, only because of the precision that is required in this process. Additionally, they aid in painting as well as checking the quality of the vehicle. Other than that, all other actions are completely by human hands. At this plant, one vehicle is completed every minute. They produce enough cars in one year, just at this plant, to stretch bumper to bumper from Detroit to New York City. Wow.

Do Ford and the other car companies have any idea the possible creativity that lies within its employees? How much would the company change if its employees were a part of the incubation process, contributing ideas, inventing the future and delivering innovative thinking that progresses the business? An incubator process is designed to do just this and it is welcoming to all, no matter the skill level.



Day One – Project Introduction

I arrived in Detroit yesterday afternoon, and traveled to Troy, MI where I will be staying during my trip. My friend’s mother has graciously taken me in and given me a place to stay. We spent the night talking about my project and she gave me plenty of insight into the city, including the history. The firm I work for also has an office in Berkley, MI, which I visited. I shared my project with a few colleagues.

Overall, everyone is excited about the idea of providing a technology incubator. They agree that the city does not need an infusion of new buildings, nor does it need old abandoned buildings and areas replaced by new shiny buildings that house shopping, movie theaters, restaurants and the like. They appreciated the idea of re-using existing structures rather than constructing new buildings. Mayor Dave Bing has taken a stance for demolishing and removing abandoned buildings throughout the city, as many of them have sat for years as eyesores. He is focusing his efforts on reducing large areas of development in order to reduce the responsible area the city must provide services to.

For this reason, when driving down some of the streets in declining neighborhoods you can see where lots and houses once where, but on a street you may only have a handful of houses still remaining. The unfortunate part is that these houses are typically in good condition and the owners have no intention of moving out of the neighborhood. This still causes a problem with how the city provides services, because although there are fewer houses, the services in these areas are only being used by a handful of people.

This work will ultimately lead to new “greenspaces,” as the city consolidates and lets go of areas in poor or abandoned condition. We all agreed that the city needs to be reduced and that these areas that are being demolished need to return to open space. This move alone could potentially change the city in many ways. It will take dangerous, questionable areas and convert them back to green space, something that is somewhat lacking in Detroit. A city of pavement which has been long known as the “Motor City”, friendly to cars, will have something it has not had in quite some time, vast areas of open space.

BMW iVentures Opens Incubator in West Village

February 1, 2012, 4:39 pm

BMW Plants Seeds of Silicon Valley in the West Village

Attendees at Tuesday's panel discussion and opening party for the BMW iVentures incubator in Manhattan.

Peter Morehand/BMW iVenturesAttendees at Tuesday’s panel discussion and opening party for the BMW iVentures incubator in Manhattan.

BMW iVentures, an investment arm begun in tandem with the automaker’s i subbrand, has established a start-up incubator on Morton Street in the West Village.

The space was inaugurated with a party and panel discussion on Tuesday. With the brand’s recent dalliances in smart-grid management in Mountain View, Calif., and the incubator opening party, the German automaker seems to be smitten with the Silicon Valley life.

At the party, panel speakers were expected to discuss “how digital technology can change, improve, disrupt, enhance and perhaps revolutionize mobility,” but their musings were mostly muted by the networking and snacking din.

The i subbrand is primarily oriented toward developing advanced-powertrain vehicles, like the i3 electric urban runabout, and more sustainable methods for producing them. BMW iVentures complements that image by nurturing or acquiring stakes in digital services related to efficient urban mobility.

The incubator, befitting an ascetically minded start-up, consists of an open floor space and a back room which, during the party, was filled with men working at computers and wearing expressions that suggested they didn’t intend to partake of the yellowtail sashimi.

Projects under the tutelage of BMW iVentures include the German car-sharing outfit DriveNow, the city-guide app developer MyCityWay and ParkatmyHouse, billed as the parking equivalent of Airbnb.

MyCityWay is the only iVentures-backed business in the incubator, but ParkatmyHouse is expected to move in shortly, Kenn Sparks, a BMW spokesman, confirmed in an e-mail Tuesday. In the meantime, start-ups that have not been directly financed by iVentures may still be invited to work in the space. “Financial arrangements are decided on an individual basis, and the use of the incubator space can be included in an iVentures investment,” Mr. Sparks wrote.

The incubator is headed by the managing directors Ulrich Quay and Alexander Diehl. BMW iVentures also plans to work with the New York University‘s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy, as well as the high-tech academic venture recently announced by Mayor Bloomberg, involving Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Audi Lightweight Centre


The focus of Technical Development operations at Neckarsulm is on the areas of lightweight body construction, interiors, and petrol and diesel engines. The results achieved by the Lightweight Design Centre Neckarsulm have already led to a tally of patents running into three figures, as well as numerous international awards. Alongside the key material aluminium, the inventors of the Audi Space Frame (ASF) lightweight body construction concept investigate in particular the use of fibre composites. Sports engine development is also based at Neckarsulm. It celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2009.

BMW Guggenheim Lab – Berlin

Guggenheim Selects New Site for BMW Guggenheim Lab Berlin

Download a PDF of this statement.

January 25, 2012

Following careful consideration, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has selected a new site for the BMW Guggenheim Lab Berlin, the combination think tank, public forum, and community center that will operate in Berlin from May 24 to July 29, 2012, as part of a nine-city, six-year tour. Berlin is the second stop for the Lab, following its successful inaugural run in New York City last fall.

The new site is in Kreuzberg, a Berlin neighborhood known for its engagement with social action and public art, and is centrally located on an expansive lot at the corner of Cuvrystrasse and Schlesische Strasse, along the River Spree. Visible from Berlinʼs landmark Oberbaumbrücke Bridge, the site is accessible from the Schlesisches Tor U-Bahn Station. The 8,400-square-meter lot will be able to accommodate a broad range of free public programming currently being developed by the Berlin Lab Team. While considering the move to this new site, the BMW Guggenheim Lab was in close contact with several key local stakeholders.

The Berlin Lab Team is formed by José Gómez-Márquez, program director for the Innovations in International Health Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston; architect and engineer Carlo Ratti, who practices in Italy and directs the SENSEable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston; Berlin-based artist Corinne Rose, who works with photography and video and teaches at the Bern University of the Arts, Switzerland; and Rachel Smith, principal transport planner with AECOM, based in Brisbane, Australia. The BMW Guggenheim Lab Berlin is curated by Guggenheim curator Maria Nicanor.

The size and accessibility of the site will provide an ideal backdrop for the Lab Team to develop programs, workshops, and other events and for participants to share, discuss, and develop ideas relating to urban life. The programming, all relating to the theme of Confronting Comfort, will focus on four main areas: Empowerment Technologies; Dynamic Connections; Urban Micro-Lens; and the Senseable (SENSEable) City.

The programs are being designed to directly and proactively engage residents from throughout Berlin, as well as visitors from around the world, and will address ideas and issues of particular relevance to the city. In addition, the BMW Guggenheim Lab website extends the reach of the Lab to a global online community through its interactive Urbanology game, multimedia, and Lab | Log, the projectʼs official blog and travel diary.

Press Contacts: Adriana Ellerman häberlein & mauerer +49 89 381 08-237
Tina Vaz/Betsy Ennis Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 212 423 3840
Thomas Girst BMW Group +49 89 382 20067

January 25, 2012 #1226/BGL11

Ford to open Silicon Valley Lab

Ford is setting up a facility in Silicon Valley to tap into high-tech ideas.

By: David Phillips, Automotive News on 1/06/2012

Ford  Motor Co., aiming to keep ahead of technology trends, will establish a  research lab in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley.The automaker said Friday the lab will open near Stanford University in Palo  Alto, Calif., in the first few months of this year.Ford wants the lab to take on a start-up feel and expand beyond the  traditional automaker mindset to encourage innovation and improve mobility and  safety.

“Silicon Valley represents a deep and dynamic technology neighborhood and is  far from Dearborn,” K. Venkatesh Prasad, a senior technical leader at Ford  Research and Innovation, said in a statement. “With so many opportunities and so  much potential, our new lab will allow us to scout new technologies and partners  in their own environment.”

Ford said the hub will be staffed with about 15 people, including employees  recruited locally and others who will rotate in from Ford’s headquarters in  Dearborn, Mich.Chief Technical Officer Paul Mascarenas said the automaker decided about a  year ago that it needed a larger presence in Silicon Valley.”This is a very natural extension into one of the most innovative communities  in the world,” Mascarenas told the Associated Press.

The small research center will explore ways to better integrate phones and  other personal devices into light vehicles.The lab will also solicit and test applications from third-party software  programmers, Ford said.

Ford sees huge potential in using the car as a moving sensor. For example,  Ford is currently studying an app that would improve weather reports by  transmitting signals when a vehicle’s rain-sensing wipers are activated.

The new lab will work closely with engineers at Ford headquarters as well as  at its design studio in Southern California and offices at Microsoft Corp. in  Washington state.

Ford and Microsoft jointly created the automaker’s Sync voice-activated  entertainment system and My Ford Touch touch-screen dashboard. Ford introduced  Sync four years ago, but the feature has suffered from performance glitches and  quality setbacks.

Ford’s ranking in several third-party quality surveys has suffered as a  result.

Mascarenas told the AP it was important that the lab be in Silicon  Valley–not Dearborn–so employees can feel free to experiment.General Motors, BMW AG and the Renault-Nissan partnership also operate small research labs in the Silicon Valley area.Prasad told the AP that Ford considered opening a Silicon Valley office in  the past but the technology wasn’t ready.

He said the Sync platform now makes it simpler and faster to reprogram a car  and update it with new applications.

“The car is finally a platform,” Prasad told the AP.

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