100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry
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Kathleen DILWORTH

Plant Manager, Flint Powertrain Operations • General Motors Co. • Age 53
 
 
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Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I studied chemical engineering in college, and I had several job interviews, but I couldn't get into another option like flow-through pipes. Other products were just oil running through a pipe or chemicals — and at an assembly line, I could actually look at a beautiful product.

First automotive job: I worked as a college intern at Pontiac in 1976, doing rotations in engineering, manufacturing supervision and powertrain.

Proudest professional achievement: When we consolidated our pre-production operations, with the bulk of the work taking place between 1996 and 1998. We had them scattered all over southeast Michigan, and we consolidated them and applied lean manufacturing techniques, which reduced cost and shortened the lead time to produce pre-production vehicles.

Also, making the transition from the assembly world to the powertrain side when I had my first plant manager assignment in 2002 in Windsor. All my previous manufacturing experience was on the assembly side.

Current challenge at work: One challenge is launching the new 1.4-liter engines for the Volt and Cruze in a pretty short amount of time — bringing both the people on board and the product on board, along with the new Flint South assembly line — while at the same time winding down the Flint North operations.

On work-life balance: My husband is a chassis engineer, and his schedule was more flexible than mine, so he was able to work from home more. He does a lot at home so that I can have the career that I do. But the company has been supportive so that I can raise my kids, and I think if you talked with my two daughters [ages 18 and 20], they would say that I had always spent a lot of time at their activities. I was always supported to make my family first.

What you do to relax: Golf, read, spend time with my kids and husband.

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