Alumni Update | Issue Six 2014
Profile
Greg Linke
Greg Linke
Manager
Manufacturing Systems Optimisation
General Motors International Operations

Bachelor of Engineering
(Mechanical & Manufacturing) with Honours


Greg Linke has spent his entire 22 year career in the automotive industry working at General Motors Holden Elizabeth and International Operations. The award winning mechanical engineer has led the development of manufacturing efficiency optimization processes that have been rolled out across General Motors’ plants around the world. He is now facing an uncertain future when Holden ceases local Manufacturing by the end of 2017.

Born and bred in Nuriootpa north of Adelaide, Greg began work at Holden Elizabeth in 1993 with an apprenticeship in Metal Fabrication, and then combined with a dual trade in fitter and turner. He was presented with the JJ McFarlane Award for the most Outstanding Holden Apprentice.

In 1998 Greg began five years as Senior Draftsman where he took Holden from 2D manual drafting to 3D CAD, CAM and simulation of Automation & Metal Forming processes.

In January 2003 he was promoted to Manager of Virtual Manufacturing where he worked until March 2013. He and his team of engineers were responsible for implementing CAD and advanced engineering technologies for Holden and GM Global Operations. He has travelled extensively throughput GM centres across Asia Pacific and North America.

During this period Greg undertook a part-time Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of South Australia. He graduated in 2008 with First Class Honours and won two prestigious graduate engineering awards: the Engineers Australia Keith Johinke Medal, the highest award for a Graduating Engineer (In Mechanical, Civil, Electrical fields), and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Project Medal.

The major topic for me right now is Horizon 2020 – the new EU Framework Programme for Science and Innovation. This is a huge package aimed at reinforcing European integration, by proposing new fields of investigation to the European Commission, tackling societal challenges, and creating important funding opportunities for everything from blue sky research to industrial innovation.

Greg describes himself as a “serial inventor”, has always had a home-based project on the go. While studying at UniSA he won the Pank/University of South Australia, School of Management Prize for Entrepreneurship - to commercialise a shed storage system that he invented, the “Garage Tidy”. Nationwide commercial distribution of the product has, to date, been ultimately unsuccessful due to the business case simply not being lucrative enough to attract the level of sponsorship needed to get to the required volumes.

His second invention- an insect resistant pet food bowl, was licensed for global distribution through a US manufacturer, and reached production tooling. Unfortunately the distributor fell victim to the GFC before the very expensive patenting process was undertaken. Not defeated by this second blow, Greg studied IP law, took on the US patent examiners and has now been granted US and Australian patents for the invention. He is now pursuing other means to bring the product to market. Greg always recalls the saying passed down from one of his business mentors “The only difference between a successful entrepreneur and an unsuccessful one, is persistence”

It was the subject of Greg’s honours thesis — an alternative methodology for bottleneck identification in complex manufacturing systems – that led to the greatest successes in his career.

During his 10 years as Manager of Virtual Manufacturing at Holden, he developed a range of solutions for manufacturing optimisation, among which was an algorithm to pinpoint efficiency opportunities through identifying real time ‘bottlenecks’ in any type of complex system.

In March 2011 Greg was awarded the Australasian Automotive Engineering Excellence Medal by the Society of Australasian Automotive Engineers, recognising his work in the Australian automotive industry.

“Holden is highly regarded by General Motors. We have some of GM’s most talented people, and run a very efficient facility to manufacture high quality, world class products.” says Greg.

“I am based at the Elizabeth plant, but directly support all manufacturing facilities in GM International Operations — which is everything outside the US and Europe. However, I’m still a Holden employee,” he says.

With the impending closure of Holden’s Australian manufacturing Operations, Greg’s career is up in the air.

“I would like to think there may be an opportunity to stay with GM. However, at the moment there are no guarantees, so I’m open to all opportunities. I’m also getting back into the entrepreneurial side and going back to school. I’ve gone back to TAFE to do a Diploma in Building Design, as I’ve always loved architecture and dreamed of channelling my creativity into designing and building my own home.

“There is another great saying I have always lived by – from the late, legendary Peter Brock: ‘Bite off more than you can chew, then chew like hell’ ”

Despite his own uncertain future Greg is positive about the future of manufacturing in South Australia.

“I believe emerging technologies are the niche that Australia can flourish in. There is a lot of talent here for developing high value intellectual property and products. We simply can’t compete in low cost manufacturing as we are not on a level playing field, and have relatively small domestic volumes. We need to focus on high value products that still make a business case at lower volumes for niche markets. Then we need to relentlessly pursue creative new ways to improve efficiency. That’s the direction I believe South Australia needs to head in,” says Greg.

“There are a lot of positive things happening in SA, so I don’t think people should be perturbed that the engineering industry, or manufacturing, is going to disappear. Businesses are working to diversify outside automotive and the Government is committed to making that happen. A great deal of effort is being put in to ensure that South Australia’s future is going to be positive.”

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