Joseph Conley, 41
Transmission and driveline global component manager, Ford Motor Co.
Big break: Hired full-time after a summer internship with Ford Customer Service Division
Among Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Hackett’s keys to improving the automaker’s bottom line are speeding product development and trimming unnecessary costs.
Hackett wants to cut the time it takes to bring a new vehicle to market by 20 percent. Ford also has a five-year cost-cutting goal of $25.5 billion, some of which will come from product development.
Joseph Conley is at the forefront of that change.
Conley, 41, is Ford’s transmission and driveline global component manager, responsible for developing driveshafts and signing off on allowing new vehicle parts to begin flowing to assembly plants. His work touches every vehicle Ford builds around the world.
“Bringing product to market in an accelerated fashion seems to be the key component in winning and losing,” Conley told Automotive News. “The days of having a generous amount of time to develop the parts I’m responsible for are being drastically reduced.”
In his nearly two decades with the automaker, Conley has led innovations in a number of areas. That includes improving the signoff process on vehicle parts.
“Engineers are excellent at defining specifications and ensuring their parts are built to print,” he said, “However, transitioning those designs to prototype assembly can be challenging at times.”
He worked last year to improve the process so late changes aren’t requested that would slow development.
Conley started at Ford in 2001 after earning a mechanical engineering degree from Michigan State University.
He completed a summer internship at Ford Customer Service Division before being hired full-time working in powertrain.
Although he faces challenges, such as meeting Hackett’s targets and figuring out how his parts will be affected by an increasing number of battery-electric and hybrid vehicles, Conley said he’s excited.
His favorite aspects of the job, he says, are building relationships with suppliers, visiting plants and seeing how customers experience the parts he’s responsible for.
“It’s kind of the whole Ford machine,” he said. “And how we can take something from concept all the way through.”
— Michael Martinez