Robert was born in 1934 with a twin brother, Ralph. And, yes, the boys did share a few things in common.
They both learned to play the piano at age 5. Both joined the Boy Scouts and earned the rank of Eagle Scout (the first twins to earn that honor in the Huron Valley Council). “I’ve never seen my dad so proud,” Robert said. Both were also in the Army, with their paths miraculously crossing during a stateside visit during World War II from Ralph.
But the current Oakmont Sterling resident also struck out for a unique life of his own, with his innovative approach to automotive engineering creating some new design and production methods.
Early in his work career, after World War II, he was working at General Motors. His analytic mind simply wasn’t content.
Looking for a better way to work
“What I’m doing doesn’t contribute to quality,” he said “There’s got to be more than that.”
After much reading about the new concept of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), design with respect to relationship of part features, “I said wow, how come we can’t have that here at GM?”
He took on the challenging task, which earned a promotion that led him to head up a group whose focus was GD&T. The concept was this: They wanted to build vehicles in prototype that couldn’t be built in production. It would make the most out of stellar planning, saving money on parts that weren’t precise fits the first time around.
The GD&T concept was a smashing success. He worked with General Motors in both Europe and South Africa, teaching and lecturing on the subject (which also included dimensional management) for many years.
Over the course of time, Robert owned three engineering companies. The engineering concepts alone weren’t the only thing that made the company’s successful. His management style was reasonable, giving his employees (and earlier, GM team members) a chance to truly learn real engineering through practical experience and not just “by-the-book” engineering. He recently sold the last of his engineering companies, Dimensional Control Systems. In this aspect of business, this company sold software and services geared to ensure more plant efficiency.
Staying active in his 80s
If that sounds like a lot of work, it is. And he didn’t mind it one bit, still showing up for work and imparting his wisdom each day until he turned 80.
Robert has been married twice. A month after serving as best man for Ralph’s wedding, Robert married Marjorie in the summer of 1958. (Yes, Ralph was his best man). Robert and Marjorie had a son (Michael) and were married 38 years before she died of cancer. Sometime later, Ralph mentioned that Robert’s high school prom date from 44 years earlier was back in town. She, too, lost her spouse. This December, Robert and Virginia will celebrate their 21st wedding anniversary.
These days, Robert and Virginia are active members of First Baptist Church in Rochester Hills. He noted they enjoy supporting missions involving children. Sadly, Ralph died three months ago at the age of 83. “I really miss him,” Robert said. “Ralph didn’t tell everyone he had a twin brother. When I was at the funeral, a few people were looking me really funny. That was pretty interesting, the looks I got!”