10 facts you probably didn't know about GM's first female CEO Mary Barra
On the 15th January 2014 Mary Barra became the first female CEO of major automotive manufacturing firm, General Motors. In fact, her appointment as CEO was an industry first.
Female CEOs are hardly a rarity these days. In the tech industry, there's Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and IBM's Virginia Rometty, and eBay's Meg Whitman and HP's Carly Fiorina before them. In the auto industry, though, Barra is a pioneer in a male-dominated profession. So how did she do it?
Manufacturing Global unveils 10 little known facts about the leading lady at GM.
- Barra joined General Electric in 1980 at the tender age of 19 as a General Motors Institute (Kettering University) co-op student. In order to be accepted on to the course, Barra was required to find a GM sponsor; she selected Pontiac.
- Barra followed in the footsteps of her father, Ray Makela, who was a dye maker at Pontiac.
- Barra has worn many hats at GM. At one point in her career she headed up the communications department and even ran her own manufacturing facility - GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant – which experienced double digit growth in quality and safety during her tenure.
- Barra spent a year and a half as GM’s head of human resources before moving on to become the SVP of product development in 2011.
- She is genuinely passionate about cars and her first car was a Chevette. Before making a final decision, Barra has put a deposit down on a faster Firebird, but decided against it at the final hour.
- Barra has a number of model cars on her desk at work, alongside a Albert Einstein figurine.
- GM’s CEO jointed Twitter in April 2014 – today she has 12.1K followers having only sent 53 tweets.
- Barra almost bought herself a Chevrolet Camaro but decided against it because it would be too much of a temptation to her teenage son.
- Barra believes in giving her designers and engineers at GM the flexibility to achieve greatness: “I think there was sometimes so many boundaries put on them that we didn’t give them a recipe for success. So now were saying no excuses, if its budget, if its resources, we have to do great cars, trucks and crossovers and it’s our job to enable you to do that.” In essence, Barra’s motto is “no more crappy cars.”
- She wears a Fitbit (but admits to not always getting her 10,000 steps in).
Fluent.ai x BSH: Voice Automating the Assembly Line
Fluent.ai has deployed its voice recognition solutions in one of BSH’s German factories. BSH leads the market in producing connected appliances—its brands include Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau, NEFF, and Thermador, and with this new partnership, the company intends to cut transition time in its assembly lines.
According to BSH, voice automation will yield 75-100% efficiency gains—but it’s the collaboration between the two companies that stands out. ‘After considering 11 companies for this partnership, we chose Fluent.ai because of their key competitive differentiators’, explained Ion Hauer, Venture Partner at BSH Startup Kitchen.
What Sets Fluent.ai Apart?
After seven years of research, the company developed a wide range of artificial intelligence (AI) software products to help original equipment manufacturers (OEM) expand their services. Three key aspects stood out to BSH, which operates across the world and in unique factory environments.
- Robust noise controls. The system can operate even in loud conditions.
- Low latency. The AI understands commands quickly and accurately.
- Multilingual support. BSH can expand the automation to any of its 50+ country operations.
How Voice Automation Works
Instead of pressing buttons, BSH factory workers will now be able to speak into a headset fitted with Fluent.ai’s voice recognition technology. After uttering a WakeWord, workers can use a command to start assembly line movement. As the technology is hands-free, workers benefit from less physical strain, which will both reduce employee fatigue and boost line production.
‘Implementing Fluent’s technology has already improved efficiencies within our factory, with initial implementation of the solution cutting down the transition time from four seconds to one and a half”, said Markus Maier, Project Lead at the BSH factory. ‘In the long run, the production time savings will be invaluable’.
Future Global Adoption
In the coming years, BSH and Fluent.ai will continue to push for artificial intelligence on factory lines, pursuing efficiency, ergonomics, and a healthy work environment. ‘We started with Fluent.ai on one factory assembly line, moved to three, and [are now] considering rolling the technology out worldwide’, said Maier.
Said Probal Lala, Fluent.ai’s CEO: ‘We are thrilled to be working with BSH, a company at the forefront of innovation. Seeing your solution out in the real world is incredibly rewarding, and we look forward to continuing and growing our collaboration’.