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Mother, daughter installs lithium-ion battery pack in nearly all GM electric vehicles

Special to The Atlanta Voice | 5/11/2014, 2:01 p.m.
For Detroit resident Evetta Osborne, every day is Mother’s Day. That’s because she literally works side by side with her ...
For Detroit resident Evetta Osborne, every day is Mother’s Day. That’s because she literally works side by side with her daughter, Monique Watson, at General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant – nicknamed D-Ham.

DETROIT – For Detroit resident Evetta Osborne, every day is Mother’s Day. That’s because she literally works side by side with her daughter, Monique Watson, at General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant – nicknamed D-Ham. They have installed the lithium-ion battery pack on nearly every GM electric vehicle – Chevrolet Volt, Opel Ampera, Holden Volt, and Cadillac ELR since production began.

In fact, apart from vacation days and an occasional sick day, the mother-daughter duo has installed almost every battery pack since the Volt was in pre-production in 2009. The ELR launched earlier this year. All told – including Ampera – that’s more than 80,000 electric vehicles.

“We’re a good team and our relationship is secondary when it comes to performing our jobs – but it’s great to work alongside my daughter, said Osborne, a mother of five.

Because the battery packs weigh more than 400 pounds, automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) – robotic carts that use sensors to follow a path through the plant – deliver them just as the vehicle body structures glide into position overhead. The AGVs then lift the T-shaped packs, as Osborne and Watson guide them into the chassis and secure each one with 24 fasteners.

It’s a routine the pair has down to a choreographed science on their small segment of the plant’s 16 miles of conveyers.

“We’ve been doing it long enough together that we anticipate each other’s moves,” said Watson, also a mom. “There’s a lot of non-verbal communication that we share when we’re working, but it’s also great to know my mother is there to talk with and share things every day. The arrangement has absolutely improved our relationship.”

Their assembly-line partnership didn’t occur immediately. Osborne, who has worked at Detroit-Hamtramck since 1999, encouraged her daughter to apply and Watson was hired in 2006. When Volt production was announced, they trained together in 2009 and were assigned to the battery installation station.

“I believed D-Ham would be a good place for Monique because the schedule allows you to balance work and family life,” says Osborne. “It’s been a good experience for both of us.”

Like all jobs, some days are tougher than others, but Watson credits her mom for instilling in her – and her siblings – a strong work ethic.

“From an early age, we knew what it meant to give yourself 100 percent to your job,” she said. “And while I know I’m doing a good job for our customers, I also know that my mom is right there, looking over my shoulder. Talk about expectations!”

A testament to the family’s experience at Detroit-Hamtramck comes from Watson’s eight-year-old son.

“He really wants to come and see us at work,” she said. “And he tells me all the time he wants to work here, too – either that or design cars.”

That means there just may be a new twist to Mother’s Day at D-Ham in a few years.

General Motors recently announced a $449-million investment to produce next-generation electrified vehicles at Detroit-Hamtramck and advanced battery technologies at the Brownstown Battery Assembly Plant. The investment includes $385 million in tooling and additional upgrades for Detroit-Hamtramck alone.

The Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant is the world’s only automotive manufacturing facility that mass-produces extended-range electric vehicles for global markets in 33 countries, including the Volt, Cadillac ELR and Opel Ampera.

Detroit-Hamtramck also builds the Chevrolet Malibu and Impala sedans and is home to a 264,000-square-foot photovoltaic solar array that can generate up to 516 kilowatts of electricity, or enough to charge 150 electric vehicles per day.