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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.