Birthplace: Grosse Point, Mich., a suburb of Detroit
Family: Husband Tim, a retired advertising executive who handled the Chrysler account; a daughter, Lisa, 23, a business consultant; and a son, Michael, 15
Education: BA, Michigan State University (economics); MBA, Wayne State University (finance)
First leadership challenge: While sailing with her family in Saginaw Bay when she was 18, a sudden squall sent 5-foot waves crashing against the small boat. The only ones not seasick were Unger and her father, who told Unger to steer the ship through the storm while he kept an eye on the family. She got the ship back to port unscathed. “That was a big storm,” recalls Unger. “There were boats our size that sank that day.”
Biggest ROI technology project at DaimlerChrysler: The “digital factory,” which applies the same virtual online concepts used to design cars to the design of new and repurposed factories and manufacturing processes. Designers can build virtual assembly lines and see if they fit into digitized versions of old and new Mercedes and Chrysler assembly plants. Digital humans twist and turn to perform their assembly line duties while the software evaluates their productivity and stress—the way Unger used to do with a clipboard at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant. “This is going to save us billions,” Unger enthuses. “It’s about putting the end-to-end process of building a car online.” Some pieces of the process, such as assembly planning and factory simulation, are already online. The system will be finished in 2005.