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SA female engineer makes African auto history

2015-09-14 09:24

MAKING HISTORY : GMSA claims Sue-Ann Lewack is the first certified female calibrator on the African Continent. Image: Quickpic / GMSA

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Port Elizabeth – A General Motors South Africa (GMSA) employee soared to the top of her field when she became, claims the automaker, the first certified female calibrator on the African continent.

Sue-Ann Lewack (39) is leading the way in a manufacturing industry largely dominated by men.

Lewack placed a further feather in her cap by completing her certification in the shortest possible time of seven months. The certification normally takes a year and a half to complete and is one of the most sought after qualifications for employees in the automotive sector.

Paving the way for female employees

Set on paving the way for other female employees in her field, a humble but excited Lewack said she is proud of her accomplishment, although the magnitude of her achievement has not yet sunken in.

All GM factories are calibrated by GM-certified calibrators. The Global Manufacturing System (GMS) calibration assessment takes place to maintain the highest manufacturing standards and to ensure Short Lead Time (SLT).

When required, Lewack will now be responsible for calibrating GM plants globally. She has already been assigned to assess GM’s vehicle and powertrain plants in India. During her visit Lewack also used her knowledge to train her peers to reach her level.

Recently Lewack led a series of workshops in Egypt and Kenya respectively. She further trained workers on how to achieve SLT’s.

According to Lewack, completing her certification was a deep desire that she had for a long time.

When the opportunity came along she jumped at the chance. She was the first to inform her manager, Keith Prinsloo, that she wanted to give it a go.

Lewack said: "I want to pave the way for other women to step up to the plate. This is a good platform for women to show their steel in motor manufacturing that is still largely male dominated."

Lewack describes herself as a passionate person and says her sons, Liam (14) and Seth (11) are her biggest supporters. She is grateful for an excellent support system that helps when she needs to spend weeks away from home.

She said: "The job can be challenging, especially spending a lot of time away from home, but the key to everything in life is creating a healthy balance. I have learned to trust my instincts and to believe in myself and my capabilities."

Explaining the road to achieving her certification, Lewack said her first task was to study the GMS training manual to make sure that she understood the Lean Global Supply Chain Standards.

She also had training and coaching from overseas colleagues who spent months imparting the knowledge she needed to acquire.

Lewack then had to apply her newfound knowledge by changing and rewriting processes, procedures, cost-saving initiatives and assessing GM’s Struandale factories in Port Elizabeth during the local calibration initiative.

Magnificent feat

The next step was shadowing a certified global calibrator in Korea and China for two weeks to do a co-calibration. When this was complete Lewack was on her own calibrating a plant.

Lewack said: “I was very nervous doing it on my own, but I did my research and I applied what I had learned. I sat with a board of directors to give them the findings on their plant as well as detailed solutions and in sequence instructions they could follow to achieve best practices.”

Prinsloo, GMS coordinator for GM operations in Africa, said he is proud of Lewack for achieving such a magnificent feat.

Prinsloo said: “I feel like a trainer who has developed an athlete for the Olympics and the athlete ended up being a gold medalist. Lewack achieved her certification in record time. This gives GM more time to fast track other tasks. She did us proud.”

Lewack has been working for GM for 19 years: “I am thankful that my loyalty towards GM has paid off and that I was not overlooked. My instincts that I would have a solid future with the company was spot on when I walked into the door of GM 19 years ago.”


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