Jill Phillips Ortega, 44
General assembly director, Lansing Delta Township Assembly, General Motors
Big break: Moving from operations and maintenance into quality
Jill Phillips Ortega has spent a lifetime as a problem solver — from tinkering with things as a child to reducing waste and creating cost efficiencies during her roughly 20-year career with General Motors.
The Ohio native’s first solution for GM came when she was an intern at the Toledo, Ohio, transmission plant in 1995 and developed a system that helped minimize spare part purchases for pipe fitters.
The outcome was a reduction in the number and variety of pumps, which lowered total cost and needed floor space while increasing efficiency and turnover of the product.
That experience, she says, has helped her in nearly every position she has had with GM — from operations and quality positions to her multiple general assembly positions, including her current role as general assembly director at Lansing Delta Township Assembly in Michigan.
It has been “very defining for me throughout my career,” the 44-year-old said. “It was something that really helped me understand how engineering could help tie directly into the manufacturing space and really drive efficiency from not only the uptime of equipment but the original purchase of equipment and … ongoing cost improvements.”
Cost improvements are important for GM as it looks to cut $6 billion on an annualized run rate by 2020, on top of the $6.5 billion it cut from 2015 to 2018.
She said another meaningful moment was moving from operations and maintenance into quality at the Toledo plant.
“It was a very defining time for me to sharpen my skills in problem-solving and really be able to drive for not just action, but drive for a genuine, permanent resolution to a problem,” she said.
Other positions Phillips Ortega has held include general assembly director for the Cadillac XT5, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Equinox; quality director for vehicle assembly, injection molding, stamping and propulsion; launch and operations manager; and quality systems manager.
Phillips Ortega would like to continue in manufacturing and be a part of GM’s global operations.
“I would love to have my own plant as a plant director, but I also really have enjoyed the global teams,” she said.
In her free time, Phillips Ortega and her husband of 16 years enjoy traveling. She also loves teaching her two nephews about science and technology by playing with Lego blocks together, explaining systems and talking about vehicles.
Phillips Ortega, an alumna of the University of Toledo, credits some of her auto engineering prowess to her father, who owned many different vehicles and was continually working on them.
— Michael Wayland