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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

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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.”

TDIC 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.”

“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.”
Lynette Gideon

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.”

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