This Chrysler assembly line worker learned how to live in the moment after her cancer diagnosis.

Ally Lucaj, a 45-year-old, divorced mother of three and Chrysler assembly line worker, is a survivor. After she found the courage to leave a bad marriage, she was forced to move her children back to her parent’s house. She diligently searched for a full-time job, applying at Chrysler in April 2012 while she worked as a waitress.

A year later, while waiting for a position at the company to open, Lucaj received devastating news from her doctor: a cancer diagnosis, which required two immediate surgeries and chemotherapy.

In July 2013, during her recovery, Chrysler offered her a position, but Lucaj was forced to turn it down. She received a second chance from the automaker a month later and accepted the position, knowing it would be her last chance, even though she was still recovering. She does not regret her decision, even though it was tough.

Lucaj says she has received so much from Chrysler including stability, the opportunity for advancement, tuition reimbursement, the ability to pay her bills and buy a house for her family—and, most importantly, health insurance for herself and her children, one of whom has Type 1 diabetes and needs lifetime medical attention.

The roller coaster ride taught her not only to have patience, but to live in the moment. I realize nothing is promised and it is important to keep a positive attitude,” Lucaj said.

These are lessons she has passed on to her kids. “I tell them to pursue their dreams and believe in themselves, but know when to stop and adjust to the current circumstances,” she added.

Lucaj works on the Dodge RAM assembly line installing carpet and assisting in back window installation. She says the job is physically demanding, and it took her two years after her cancer diagnosis to regain her strength.

“It takes teamwork to build a quality truck and we all rely on each other,” she said.

Lucaj does not fear the robot revolution prevalent in today’s manufacturing plants because “robots cannot replace humans,” due to the need for accuracy in building cars. “Robots can do part of the job, but it still takes a human to complete the job,” she added.

Human innovation is needed to keep the manufacturing process running smoothly and efficiently, and Chrysler encourages its employees to share ways to save money and reduce waste through the use of the Kaizen method—a Japanese management concept of continuous improvement, as well as a way-of-life philosophy.

The foundation of Kaizen is based on five principles: teamwork, personal discipline, improved morale, quality circles and suggestions for improvement. In business and manufacturing, it allows for people to perform experiments on their work procedures using the scientific method, and to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes.

The Kaizen philosophy not only encourages change in business practices and manufacturing processes at the management level, it also trusts and respects the people involved in making the product—such as assembly line workers—to cultivate innovative ideas on how to improve their own work process and increase their productivity. “If I see a better way to do things, I write it up and pass it on to management,” Lucaj explained.

Being a trusted member of the Chrysler family has given Ally Lucaj the courage to face the future, which is bright indeed for her and her family. “I am in remission and have been cancer-free for three years,” she said. “Chrysler has given me back my life again. They have given me everything,”


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What is Humans of Manufacturing?

Humans of Manufacturing is an initiative developed by SME to address misconceptions about manufacturing careers. Emphasis has been on products and companies, but not on the everyday people that make it happen. Humans of Manufacturing will showcase that manufacturing today is an advanced, highly-valued industry that involves innovation and technology.


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