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Humans of Manufacturing

Seamstress Applies Her Fashion Passion to Designing Robot Covers

Wayne State University Student Studies Fashion Design, is now a Technical Field Specialist.

Growing up, Lynnette Gideon always wanted to be a fashion designer. A lifelong seamstress, the Romeo, (MI), native created her own sewing patterns as a teenager, so it was only natural that she would seek a degree in fashion design and merchandising at Wayne State University in Detroit. But life has a way of throwing curve balls when not expected.

In 2000, Lynnette’s father, who was working at Fanuc America, Rochester Hills, (MI), had asked T.D. Industrial Coverings (TDIC), Sterling Heights, (MI), to design a cover for an automotive robot he was working on. TDIC designers, using his robot as a dress form, cut and stapled a prototype cover for the robot at his work station — this work reminded him of his daughter’s career aspirations, so he mentioned her talents to TDIC management. Timing is everything, and it just so happened that TDIC was hiring more design technicians, and his daughter was interested in interviewing with the company.

“The rest is history,” Gideon said. Her formal education paralleled this new career opportunity. “When I first started at TDIC, they had just invested in CAD for patternmaking, and I embraced the technology. When I discovered how fast I could create a new robot cover pattern or modify an existing pattern with just a few clicks of the mouse, I was hooked. Since the timeline of my career and college career were synchronous, I was allowed to utilize the CAD system at TDIC for my college fashion design assignments. My professors enjoyed learning how we could utilize this patternmaking software for clothing in addition to robot covers.”

Seamstress Applies Her Fashion Passion to Designing Robot CoversTDIC uses Lectra software and hardware for its patternmaking design and automatic cutting, and the company invested in 3D scanning and printing technologies to increase design accuracy and speed. While the process of robot cover design maybe static, the covers themselves are anything but standard. TDIC has designed nearly 23,000 unique custom covers to date.

“Clients often ask for a ‘standard cloth robot cover,’ but I explain to them that every robot installation is different,” said Gideon. “The base robot model may be standard, but there is usually extra equipment added on. The type of material being sprayed is unique to each application, and the part being manufactured or worked on by the robot adds its own challenges. Throw in personal preferences by the humans that work with the robots and you end up with a custom cover.”

Recently Gideon was promoted to the position of technical field specialist, a position she says allows her to travel to auto plants outside of Michigan to win new clients and serve as a liaison to manage clients’ programs.

Gideon has come a long way, personally and professionally. “I started my career as a shy, introverted, yet idealistic 19-year-old, so it took me years to grow my intrapersonal skills,” said Gideon. “I have learned that along with professionalism and aptitude, customers value my authenticity.”

According to Gideon, one of the problems America faces is the monumental task of becoming more ecologically aware in the industry space. “I would like to see a “green” revolution in the automotive industry,” said Gideon. “Many OEMS are developing hybrid or electric vehicles, but the painting of all cars is still a toxic mess. TDIC offers a service where we launder and repair used covers and sell them back to the plants at a discounted price. Not all OEMS utilize this convenience, and others simply can’t due to the nature of their paint.”

Looking to the future Lynnette hopes people remember her as a woman with integrity. “I also hope to be a good mentor to new employees and help them grow to be successful,” she said.

Gideon married her husband Chris in 2006 and the couple enjoys traveling, art, music, and bicycle rides. Her personal hobbies are wide-ranging. These pursuits, along with her career, have grounded her. “I am fully present when things from many different facets of my life seem to click together to reveal a bigger picture.”

Humans of Manufacturing

Finding Courage to Face the Future

This Chrysler assembly line worker learned how to live in the moment after her cancer diagnosis.

Ally Lucaj, a 45-year-old, divorced mother of three and Chrysler assembly line worker, is a survivor. After she found the courage to leave a bad marriage, she was forced to move her children back to her parent’s house. She diligently searched for a full-time job, applying at Chrysler in April 2012 while she worked as a waitress.

A year later, while waiting for a position at the company to open, Lucaj received devastating news from her doctor: a cancer diagnosis, which required two immediate surgeries and chemotherapy.

In July 2013, during her recovery, Chrysler offered her a position, but Lucaj was forced to turn it down. She received a second chance from the automaker a month later and accepted the position, knowing it would be her last chance, even though she was still recovering. She does not regret her decision, even though it was tough.

Lucaj says she has received so much from Chrysler including stability, the opportunity for advancement, tuition reimbursement, the ability to pay her bills and buy a house for her family—and, most importantly, health insurance for herself and her children, one of whom has Type 1 diabetes and needs lifetime medical attention.

The roller coaster ride taught her not only to have patience, but to live in the moment. I realize nothing is promised and it is important to keep a positive attitude,” Lucaj said.

These are lessons she has passed on to her kids. “I tell them to pursue their dreams and believe in themselves, but know when to stop and adjust to the current circumstances,” she added.

Lucaj works on the Dodge RAM assembly line installing carpet and assisting in back window installation. She says the job is physically demanding, and it took her two years after her cancer diagnosis to regain her strength. “It takes teamwork to build a quality truck and we all rely on each other,” she said.

Lucaj does not fear the robot revolution prevalent in today’s manufacturing plants because “robots cannot replace humans,” due to the need for accuracy in building cars. “Robots can do part of the job, but it still takes a human to complete the job,” she added.

Human innovation is needed to keep the manufacturing process running smoothly and efficiently, and Chrysler encourages its employees to share ways to save money and reduce waste through the use of the Kaizen method—a Japanese management concept of continuous improvement, as well as a way-of-life philosophy.

The foundation of Kaizen is based on five principles: teamwork, personal discipline, improved morale, quality circles and suggestions for improvement. In business and manufacturing, it allows for people to perform experiments on their work procedures using the scientific method, and to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes.

The Kaizen philosophy not only encourages change in business practices and manufacturing processes at the management level, it also trusts and respects the people involved in making the product—such as assembly line workers—to cultivate innovative ideas on how to improve their own work process and increase their productivity. “If I see a better way to do things, I write it up and pass it on to management,” Lucaj explained.

Being a trusted member of the Chrysler family has given Ally Lucaj the courage to face the future, which is bright indeed for her and her family. “I am in remission and have been cancer-free for three years," she said. “Chrysler has given me back my life again. They have given me everything,”

Humans of Manufacturing

A Love Affair with Flying

GE Engineer Credits Grandfather for Introducing Him to Aircraft, Flying

At the young age of two, Joshua Mook fell in love with aircraft — his grandfather, a pilot, introduced him to flying by taking him on a ride in the family plane. Little did Mook know his passion for aircraft and flying would put him on the path to become an engineering leader at GE Additive — the division of GE dedicated to additive manufacturing, which is a way of printing parts layer by layer as one piece that’s expected to revolutionize manufacturing. (For more on Josh's story and on additive manufacturing, see him on YouTube).

“My grandfather flew for pleasure … he would use any excuse to fly,” said Mook. “It was 1984 when I went on my first airplane ride with my grandfather. He gave me a certificate for flying that day — that is something I will always remember. Flying turned out to be our weekend thing that we did together — we bonded during flying.”

Besides introducing Mook to flying, his grandfather also taught him one of the most valuable lessons in life — to help others and treat them as you would want to be treated.

“The number one thing I remember about my grandfather is that he was always looking for a way to help other people,” said Mook. “That was really influential on me and how I treat people today.”

Flight Across AmericaAs a rite of passage for soon-to-be adults, many teenagers look forward to getting their driver’s license, but for Mook a pilot’s license came before that. “I got my pilot’s license at the age of 16,” chuckled Mook.

Even though he became a pilot during his high school years, Mook considered himself a typical kid — an “engineering kid” that is. “I was always taking things apart and putting them back together.

“I’ve always wanted to learn what makes something tick, perform, and work,” said Mook. “There is something in my personality that draws me to solve problems. And besides having a passion for flying I also love math and science.”

For some time Mook considered a career as a pilot, but he decided to study engineering. Mook went to Purdue University and received a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. He then attended the University of Cincinnati and received a Master of Science in the same field.

“I wanted to do something where I could combine all my passions — flying, math and science — and engineering allowed me to do just that. Art is also another passion of mine, and that has made me a successful designer. Having skills from these disciplines has given me a unique perspective in my field. As an engineer, design motivates me — designing things that no one has created before.”

Yet, Mook credits his love of flying to putting him on the path to having an engineering career in the aerospace industry. “My time as a pilot made me respect the technology,” said Mook. “Jet engines are a symphony of complex components working together.”

Mook finds his job in additive manufacturing exciting, because this new method of production is changing the way everything is designed. “There is so much science in this that at times designing the perfect combustion engine feels like magic,” said Mook.

“Every industry is ripe for design disruption, and this is completely shifting how engineers approach a problem, which is really exciting,” added Mook. “The next generation will grow up with possibilities we couldn’t have imagined.”

For more on Josh's story and on additive manufacturing, check out the video below.



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What is Humans of Manufacturing?

Humans of Manufacturing is an initiative developed by SME to address misconceptions about manufacturing careers. Emphasis has been on products and companies, but not on the everyday people who make it happen. Humans of Manufacturing will showcase that manufacturing today is an advanced, highly valued industry that involves innovation and technology - and the human element.

If you know of someone that you would like SME to feature as a Human of Manufacturing, please e-mail Candace Roulo, managing editor, at In the e-mail please include the person’s name and title, plus a short summary about the individual’s background and why they are a good candidate for Humans of Manufacturing.