Real Model interview episode #34 featuring Diane Miller, General Assembly Manager at Stellantis and Inspiring Automotive Women Award Winner for 2020

Over the past four years Diane has transformed the Paint Unit at the Ellesmere Port Plant in terms of health & safety, quality, throughput and cost.

She is an inspirational leader who has reduced headcount within the unit whilst improving the industrial relations with Unite the union. She has educated the union and gained their support in making her unit more efficient. Diane is the lead woman in the plant for the Women in Industry Forum and will participate in university open days, university milk rounds, school open days, recruitment fairs and will also give talks on her experiences and encourages women to join the automotive industry and engineering. She mentors two female graduates in the plant and gives up her time for these individuals so that they are better prepared and can maximize their skills and potential.

How did you feel to be nominated by your colleagues in the Inspiring Automotive Women Awards 2020 and how did it feel to be one of our winners?

I was very pleased to be nominated by my colleagues it was a great compliment. I was delighted and humbled to win the award and be part of such an inspiring group of women in our industry.

What is your job and what does it involve? 

I am currently General Assembly manager for Vauxhall,  Ellesmere Port which means I am responsible for leading the team that puts all the parts in the car from engines to seats. We assemble everything after the painted body shell arrives from the Paint Shop.  We are responsible for the production of around 200 cars a day safely and with the best quality and lowest cost. In the department, we have over 300 people who do various roles from working on the production line, maintaining the equipment, and providing the engineering support required. We manufacture the Astra Sports Tourer, which is sold all over Europe. Vauxhall is now a part of Stellantis, which is the 4th biggest automotive company in the world.

How long have you worked in the sector?

I have been in automotive manufacturing for 30 years. I started with Ford Motor Company in Dagenham Assembly Plant straight from university and worked in various plants in UK and Europe. For 4 years I worked in Chicago Assembly Plant USA which was an amazing experience.  I also spent 6 years in Aston Martin another iconic brand before getting the opportunity to move to Vauxhall now a part of Stellantis which is the 4th biggest automotive company in the world. This Industry has given me so many opportunities I would never have imagined when I first decided to study Mechanical Engineering at John Moores University Liverpool.

What do you like best about your job?

The first time I saw a manufacturing plant and watched 60  cars every hour rolling of a production line I was hooked.  It was and still is an amazing sight. I love working with the people in OEM because they constantly display innovation and the drive to achieve. So many times I have seen teams deliver the seemingly impossible to keep the line running so the customers can get their cars on time.

What are your future aspirations?

I am enjoying the relatively new challenge of working in General Assembly and am looking forward to being part of the launch of our new vehicle,  assuming we get an allocation soon. I really enjoy developing a team and empowering them to be autonomous. I positively believe in allowing the experts,  who are the people who actually build the cars, the empowerment to drive the changes and deliver the results.   I want, where possible, to dwell on the good results and deal with any challenges positively.  My job is to support others and help them develop their skills and in this way, we can all achieve the goals and contribute to Stellantis’ success.

Can you name a woman in automotive that inspires you and why?

Alison Jones, UK Group Manufacturing Director & Senior Vice President of Stellantis. She is an inspirational leader who has deservedly achieved senior board-level positions by consistently delivering results. She credits some of this to take every opportunity not only upwards but sideways. She has talked about how each move can strengthen and deepen your experience. She also demonstrates empathy and concern for her employees and empowering them to achieve their potential.

What makes you happy?

My family first and foremost and at work trying to utilize everyone’s strong points. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and I enjoy trying to make sure that I harness the strengths because most people are not perfect. It is often too easy to point out the weakness instead of developing the strength.

Which word or phrase do you most overuse?

Absolutely!

What is your worst trait?

I am probably not structured enough for some! I like to give everyone the freedom to take some risk and come up with innovative ways to drive the business forward and break down traditional hierarchical actions driven from top-down.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who delivers results and empowers others to do the same.

What advice would you give to women who are wanting to progress in the sector?

I think just get involved and don’t be afraid to be yourself and develop your own style. We don’t need to change and try to act like the majority, we should celebrate our differences. There is a huge need for women in our industry because we contribute to teams in a different way and the differing styles and insights mean together we are more likely to challenge the status quo and achieve exceptional results.

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