Ford, with the largest revenue and employee base of any company in Michigan, has a history of global recruitment in recent decades.
In the biography of Steve Jobs on Gil Gur Arie’s bookshelf, author Walter Isaacson shares a story about the day Jobs unveiled the Macintosh computer. A reporter from Popular Science asked Jobs what type of market research he had done. Jobs responded by scoffing, “Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?”
Ford’s CEO Jim Farley, with decades of experience in marketing, is a strong believer in innovation but not the kind where you just trust your gut. His vision is for Ford to be a data-first company and to keep data in mind for everything the company does, both miniscule and major. Since becoming president and CEO in October 2020, he’s been recruiting near and far to help the company determine how data can guide the direction of the company’s future. These new recruits have come from noted names like Apple, the technology company founded by Jobs.
Gil Gur Arie, who became an executive at Ford on May 1, 2020, is another such recruit. He now serves as the chief data and analytics officer for Ford. His first day at the office, during the start of the pandemic, ended up also being his last day at the office as he transitioned quickly to remote work.
The Israeli native now has a home base in West Bloomfield, along with his wife, Hagit, and four children (ages 8, 10, 14 and 17). “As I reflect on my first year here with my family (relocating to Michigan), it was tough at the beginning. I would say the pandemic definitely didn’t help connecting, but I found a nice community here in West Bloomfield. The Jewish community as well. We got a bunch of challahs the very first Friday and my wife, who is a great cook and baker, made some for the neighbors as well,” Gur Arie told the Jewish News.
“I would say, despite the pandemic, we have felt a warm welcome and a sense of belonging,” he added. His children, who began school on Zoom, now are back to in-person learning in the Bloomfield Hills School District.
Gur Arie and his wife decided to tap into downtown areas on the weekends. So far, they’ve hit several locations, including Plymouth, Birmingham, Novi and Northville.
Jewish Legacy at Ford
Wesley Sherwood, on the mobility communications team at Ford, mentioned that Ford had the distinction of having a prior CEO from the Jewish community, Mark Fields, as well as a previous treasurer within the community, Neil Schloss. With Gil’s appointment, he is now the most prominent Israeli and Jewish executive at the firm and also one of the most prominent Israel executives within the automotive world.
Ford, with the largest revenue and employee base of any company in Michigan, has a history of global recruitment in recent decades. Norman Lewis, as one such example, previously served as the director of information systems at the company after having impressed the U.S. executives with his work around computer systems in the European office of Ford. The South Africa native, who made aliyah to Israel and completed a Ph.D. at Hebrew University, continues to reside in Metro Detroit.
Gur Arie’s role is focused on transforming Ford into a data-led business, which includes modernizing all aspects of the company, including “translating connected vehicle data into quicker actions for customers.”
Sherwood shares that Gur Arie’s team is leading Ford’s advanced artificial intelligence applications and is integrating artificial intelligence to improve its manufacturing efficiencies as well as its massive logistics and shipping operations. Ford’s team of global data and analytics members now spans 1,000 data scientists globally. The objectives for the team focus on key company priorities including the development of mobility, electrification, connective vehicles and autonomous driving technologies.
A key objective for the global data team has been on logistics over the last year with significant shipping challenges confronting the industry. Gur Arie mentioned how a year ago, Ford launched a system that uses historical data and machine learning algorithms to optimize shipments around the globe, which spans over 600,000 different parts, to send less freight while making sure the parts arrive at the right time. While optimizing all these moving parts across 80 plants has been challenging, the new system already saves more than $20 million a year.
Thoughts on Detroit
Gur Arie is a retired colonel in the Israeli Military Intelligence Corps, Unit 8200, who comes to Detroit with more than two decades of experience in data science, research and development, cybersecurity and intelligence technologies experience. His work in the IDF included establishing a technological unit with more than 1,000 employees, advancing hundreds of solutions within the intelligence community and establishing the profession of data engineer within the IDF where he was appointed as the data science representative.
“I’m proud and humble to be part of the leadership of this company, coming from my background. Ford is highly open to diversity of thoughts, diversity of culture, trying to get to the best decision on day-to-day meetings and, overall, on the strategy creation. So, I’m proud to be part of that,” Gur Arie said.
“I do see the connection to the Israeli ecosystem and in using the research center in Israel to tap into the local talent. So, I’m quite optimistic. I hope I’m not the last one from an Israeli perspective into the automotive business. I hope others will follow.”
Gur Arie articulated what he witnessed firsthand since he began: The pandemic changed the face of the relationship between workers and employers. The company, more than ever before, is looking for talent wherever it is and to connect with the full global ecosystem — even if it means hiring remote workers.”
Gur Arie said that he and his boss are passionate about talent in the tech area whether they be in Israel, India, Europe, China or other locations.
Gur Arie, 46, has come a long way from his upbringing in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area of Hod Hasharon. Gil, whose name is often given in Hebrew by parents that want their children to embody a bright promise, not only carries with him a joyful demeanor — but also a sense of promise for the region he now resides in.
“We see great opportunities here in Detroit.”
Ford Jewish Group
The Ford Jewish group is part of the Ford Interfaith Network (FIN) Employee Resource Group, founded in 2000 as one of the original faith affinity groups. Prior to COVID restrictions, the FIN Jewish Group typically met for a lunch-and-learn type of event several times a year, inviting a guest speaker such as Rabbi Yisrael Pinson of Chabad in the D to lead a discussion.
The FIN Jewish Group also participates in Ford Interfaith events such as the National Day of Prayer, the monthly Interfaith Discussion Forum (where each faith presents a short explanation of its teachings on the selected topic) and a FIN annual community service event.
The Ford Fund (Ford’s charitable arm) has supported several Jewish charities and events in Southeast Michigan area over the years, including Yeshiva Beth Yehudah’s annual dinner (Mark Fields was honored one year), the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and support for the Yad Ezra food bank through grants and the Ford Volunteer Corps.