Michael Whitens has been named the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award winner by the Society of Plastics Engineers' automotive division.
Whitens, former director of Ford Motor Co.'s vehicle and enterprise sciences at the automakers Research and Innovation Center, will receive the award Nov. 6 during the 49th annual Automotive Innovation Awards Gala in Livonia, Mich.
"I am very grateful to be recognized with this esteemed SPE automotive division award for lifetime achievement and especially grateful to the talented teams of people I have had the honor to work with who have made this possible," Whitens said in a statement.
"This award would not be possible without the challenging work experience that I enjoyed, the innovative support from my associates at Ford and their supplier base, participation in SPE and other professional trade associations, and education," he added.
In his most recent role at Ford, Whitens led the development of technology strategy and implementation to support emerging areas including materials and manufacturing, mobility solutions, vehicle components and systems, connectivity, lightweighting, structures and composites, additive manufacturing, and other trends.
Prior to that role, he was the global director of body interior engineering, where he was responsible for the quality, cost, weight, function and delivery of a more than $15 billion commodity base that included cockpits, hard and soft trim, seats, restraints, climate systems and interior lighting for all Ford vehicles globally.
"Mike has a unique combination of global cross-functional leadership and refined people skills, giving him the ability to handle any business challenge," Cynthia Flanigan, Ford's chief engineer of vehicle research and technology, said in a statement. "He's a great leader who is very well-liked and respected in the industry and most deserving of this award."
His past work includes projects focusing on the development of innovative automotive plastics applications — ranging from interiors and exteriors to under-the-hood — where he demonstrated expertise in microcellular foaming, long-fiber thermoplastic composites, natural fiber composites, carbon fiber composites, metal-plastics hybrid molding and more.
"Mike is known industrywide as one of the best problem solvers and innovators in the field of plastics and composites," Ford research scientist Alper Kiziltas said in a statement. "He has a rare combination of expertise that is hard to find in the industry, including an understanding of the total system: an interaction between polymeric materials and chemistry, plastic processes, plastics part design, [computer-aided engineering], characterization and tooling."
Whitens retired from Ford in 2018. He is now an adviser at the self-titled consulting firm Michael Whitens LLC, according to his LinkedIn profile. He has been an SPE member since 2000.