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Automotive Engineer Kim Roan Grew Up Absorbing Lessons Learned From Family Members With a Long History in the Industry

There’s a lot to be said for growing up in an industry. Take for example, the automobile manufacturing. You hear stories from family around the dinner table. Sometimes the work is engaging, sometimes frustrating. You listen and absorb. And you begin to visualize the step by step process of designing and manufacturing a car. Even if you’re a fifteen year old girl. One day you see the end product when your dad brings home a new car. And asks if you want to drive it around the block.

Of course you’re tempted, but you don’t even have a driver’s license. Your dad encourages you. ‘It’s okay, you drive and I’ll guide you from the passenger’s seat.’ And then you realize he’s not asking you to be reckless. He’s giving you a chance to build confidence. And that realization gets you across the line. ‘Okay, dad, I’m game. It’s not like I haven’t been watching you and mom drive since I was in diapers.’ You look over at your mom. She nods yes. You look at your dad. ‘Let’s do it.’

Kim Roan grew up in the automobile industry. Her first driving experience was a bit different, but she readily acknowledges the family dinner table conversations growing up. “My father began his career as a draftsman before the industry turned to computer aided design, CAD. I was fascinated with his work from a young age. I have fond memories of learning about his tools and standing at his drawing board examining how he built all the components of some interior car part.”

“Working in the automotive industry is in my DNA” she says. “My grandparents and one set of great grandparents came to the Detroit area to work for ‘the big three’ automobile companies. My paternal great grandfather was a tool maker, my paternal grandparents both worked for and retired from Ford Motor Company. And my maternal grandfather also worked for and retired from Chrysler.”

“As a young mother, I re-entered college with the intention of becoming a designer like my dad, but as I was working to pay my way through school,” Roan adds. “At one point, I started working with a group of engineers at Saturn and that propelled me into advanced manufacturing and working with Saturn’s supply base. My study focus changed to mechanical engineering and I earned my degree from Baker College in Flint.”

“When Saturn was integrated back into GM, I went from student engineer for Saturn to contract engineer for the Saturn division of GM. Eventually I went into the supply chain part of the business. I then continued on in quality engineering, test lab management, quality systems management and plant quality management. And finally I became IATF lead auditor, then a consultant and now technical lead with NSF-ISR.”

She and her team support IATF certification efforts with the automotive industry. Technical leads support team members and auditors in their work to ensure that clients stay compliant with automotive standards. IATF 16949 is the International Standard for Automotive Quality Management Systems. IATF stands for the International Automotive Task Force, the industry group that oversees the overall quality standards process.

“I have the privilege of working with a global team with members located in Michigan, Texas, Canada (one Canadian team member hails from Romania) and Mexico,” Roan says. “We support IATF 16949 audits and business across all the global regions where NSF has a presence.” Roan knows well the challenge of doing standards work with teams and clients scattered across North America, Latin America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Looking across the industry landscape, she also sees the rising tide of information security challenges faced by automotive companies. “InfoSec challenges are the scariest faced by the industry today,” she says. “These attacks are often unseen and can go undetected until millions, or even billions of dollars, are lost. Ransomware plagues auto manufacturing and causes costly down time when control of manufacturing systems is lost and then has to be restored.”

To illustrate her point, she offers an example. “In 2015 Fiat Chrysler experienced the first ever InfoSec related recall when hackers managed to gain control of a Jeep Cherokee remotely using the car’s infotainment system. As a result of this single incident, 1.4 million vehicles were recalled. Every technological advance of the automobile creates another path for a potentially costly, even dangerous, security breach.”

Spoken like an automotive engineer who grew up in the industry. And who learned early on as a teenager to pay close attention to what the adults we’re saying about challenges in their work when gathered around the family dinner table.

©Copyright, Jorge González-García, Sr. Content Writer, Tucson, Arizona, April 2023.