May 16, 2020

Out with the old, in with the new: Honda appoints new CEO

Honda
Manufacturing CEOs
Takanobu Ito
Takahiro Hachigo
Glen White
2 min
Inside Honda and its secrets to success.
Honda has announced that it will be making some major changes within its leadership team. The company's CEOTakanobu Ito will step aside to become an...

Honda has announced that it will be making some major changes within its leadership team. The company's CEO Takanobu Ito will step aside to become an adviser to the company and remain on the board, while Takahiro Hachigo, will take his place at the top.

According to reports, the shakeup comes amid growing competition in the United States from Nissan, recalls that have led to significant delays of new vehicles, and cuts in the automaker's annual profit forecast as it struggles to replace potentially deadly air bags.

To add insult to injury, Honda was also hit with a record $70 million fine in January by US regulators over unreported deaths and injuries.

Yet while the timing of the news was unexpected, the man who will replace Ito was perhaps even more so. Hachigo, a managing officer at Honda who is based in China, will become CEO in late June. 

Hachigo has been described as ‘low profile’ and is little known outside the company. In fact it has been widely noted that Hachigo jumped over higher-level executives at Honda in being named to the post.

Hachigo, 55, is a long-time employee at Honda after joining the firm in 1982. During his tenure he has worked in several departments, including engineering and purchasing, but he will be the first CEO to not have headed Honda's R&D company in Japan.

Though this may mark an unusual move for the automaker, a growing number of companies are making similarly unconventional choices when naming their next chief executive. In a November report, the Boston Consulting Group labeled the phenomenon ‘leapfrog successions’, in which boards reach a couple of rungs down the ladder to find their next leader.

“At its essence, it's when a company looks at the future direction of the company and the business environment and makes a determination that the people doing business as usual will not be the ones who make that change,” said Roselinde Torres, a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group.

Honda is likely to have chosen Hachigo due to his experience in various markets including the US, China and Europe; he has also developed some of the company’s most popular products. As Honda works to rebuild its reputation for quality, this experience could prove invaluable.

That's not to say Ito wasn't focused on change: He was known for shaking up the company's supply chain, something critics worried could affect quality, and also returned the company to Formula One racing. Still, Hachigo's low profile could make the impression of a new direction, a fresh start and a new, stronger era for the company.  

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Jun 16, 2021

Fluent.ai x BSH: Voice Automating the Assembly Line

Fluentai
BSH
AI
Technology
2 min
Fluent.ai and BSH announce plans to bring speech-to-intent AI to the assembly line that will increase factory efficiency and improve worker ergonomics

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’. 

 

 

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