November 2, 2009

Alan: obsessed with quality

Scott's family

Alan's family

Alan Miller, Engineering Group Manager for engineering development
Office romance:
  Married to Judy, a GM engineer working on body structures
R&R: Racing sail boats and martial arts
Couch time: Watching Cops and Operation Repo (strictly for entertainment value!)
Tunes:  Loves 80’s music

Work is my obsession. I’m lucky to have my wife and kids because they give me a reason to go home at night! I manage sub-system testing of engines and am involved in problem solving at our new state of the art engine testing facility in Pontiac, Mich.

A big part of my job is problem solving. One example is an engine valvetrain lifter issue we had with our Tahoe/Yukon-V8 Hybrid motor before launch. I’m so determined to find a solution that sometimes I’ll take the problem home – where I can work on it with my boys Logan (7) and Gavin (4). Working on this issue I took apart the lifters in my kitchen and did some experiments using my kitchen freezer and was able to discover the root cause using simple non standard methods. It turned out we needed a paradigm shift in the requirements of the lubrication system, for starting hybrid powertrains as compared to starting traditional engines.

I have 10 employees on my team, with some having less than five years of experience. I love being able to help them with problem solving, and teach them root cause analysis and out of the box thinking. I’ve been awarded three patents and one pending during my 24 years at GM. I encourage my team members to go after patents as well, and I’m proud to say my team submitted 24 patent ideas in the last two years. It’s a source of pride for the employee and the patent work improves a process or a part that will make us more efficient or improve our vehicle quality.

Future engineers? My sons Logan and Gavin.

Future engineers? My sons Logan and Gavin.

My greatest motivation at work is to beat our competition.  It keeps me very focused. I guess I get a lot of that discipline from my Martial Arts training. I’m a black belt and my son is a red belt. I also enjoy racing sailboats. Sailing has taught me that teamwork and preparation are key to being competitive.  My wife encourages me to participate in activities outside of work, but we do have many good discussions about GM.  We tease each other that it is good that I work on engines and she works on the bodies. Together we make a good GM team.

Up North doing vehicle cold weather testing

Up North doing vehicle cold weather testing

Being part of a global company has given me the opportunity to go to places like Arjeplog, Sweden, close to the Arctic Circle to perform cold-weather tests of our high-feature V6 engine, and many other places around the globe. Not only do we have global standardized work in our engine testing procedures, but I also now have friends around the world.

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