Friday, July 13, 2012

Joel Neidig: Manufacturing Thought Leader

Joel Neidig: 

Manufacturing Thought Leader

Jul 11, 2012
By Dave Edstrom
One of the genuine privileges of working in manufacturing is when you run into someone that is a true thought leader and a game changer. It is even more inspiring when that person is young. Joel Neidig is a Technology Manager at ITAMCO and is a role model for what we want young people in manufacturing to aim for. Actually, he is a role model for anyone.
I first met Joel at an MTConnect Technical Advisory Group (MTCTAG) meeting and immediately realized that he was very different from anyone that I had ever met before in manufacturing. He grew up as a third generation employee in the company that his grandfather and uncle started. Joel started telling me about all the cool things that his company was doing. He went on to describe how much his company appreciated MTConnect. He said that MTConnect was exactly what his company had been looking for and he wanted to personally help out. Joel is the type of person whose passion is contagious. He speaks with so much knowledge and excitement about MTConnect as well as what they are doing at ITAMCO that people get energized just having a conversation with him.
Joel was the first person to write as well as open source an MTConnect mobile app. When folks ask me, “Dave, is MTConnect real?” I don’t say anything. I pull out my iPhone, I pull up Joel’s free MTConnect app, pull up a machine tool some place on planet earth, remotely monitor exactly what that machine tool is doing and say, “there’s an app for that.” Yes, MTConnect is very real and it is changing manufacturing around the globe. You can go get your free MTConnect app today for Apple or Android thanks to Joel.
When I suggested that we have an MTConnect conference, I had a high degree of confidence in its success because of the tremendous talent of the MTCTAG members. This is the secret sauce of MTConnect — the brains and passion of the many, many manufacturing and software experts that built MTConnect from the ground up. That was the basis for the first-ever [MC]2, MTConnect: Connecting Manufacturing Conference.
One of the most difficult areas for [MC]2 2011 was the hands-on labs. This was a real challenge because it was 6 hours of hands-on software programming labs and it was something that was very atypical for a manufacturing conference. Most manufacturing conferences are a lineup of speakers with no hands-on programming component to them. Finding talented software programmers who are willing to give up their time to help out is incredibly difficult in the manufacturing arena. I did not have to ask Joel; he volunteered. Joel and I worked together to create the 2-hour lab called MTConnect 101: Fundamentals of MTConnect Workshop. This is available today at for anyone who wants to learn about how MTConnect really works. We also have hands-on labs titled MTConnect Architecture: Understanding and Building MTConnect Agents and Adapters Workshop, as well MTConnect Hello World: Building Your First MTConnect Application Using the SDK Workshop.
Joel was the lead and I was really just his helper. The truth was that Joel did not need my help or anyone’s help for that matter; he already knew MTConnect inside and out as well as how he wanted the lab to flow. All of the hands-on labs ended up being a huge success, and all of them have been watched many times on — and are available today to watch for free.
Joel and ITAMCO hosted the June 2012 MTCTAG Meeting at their Plymouth headquarters in Indiana. Joel and his father Gary, Vice President at ITAMCO, were the perfect hosts for our meeting. We were given tours of a couple of their plants. ITAMCO is clearly a state-of-the-art company. After the tour ended, Joel gave all of the MTCTAG members a working version of ITAMCO’s iBlue, the world’s first industrial Bluetooth transmitter. iBlue lets you wirelessly acquire, record, and share material information by connecting to your computer or smartphone device. The mobile application allows users to check material hardness, temperature, and collect data with an easy-to-use interface.
This is not an endorsement or advertisement for iBlue. The point I am making is that it was brilliant that Joel and ITAMCO would give out a new piece of hardware to the MTCTAG to test out. I cannot think of a better way for a company to get the word out on a new product, as well as get great feedback, then by giving it out to the group whose mission is to change manufacturing productivity by easily enabling connectivity with MTConnect.
I have three sons and it is easy to find someone who has led a long and full life and point to that person as someone my sons should model their life after. It is much more challenging to find a young person and say, “this is someone you should look up to, learn from and try to model your life after.” There are some professional athletes who go out of their way to state they are not role models. I have never understood that point of view. Joel Neidig is both a role model and a manufacturing thought leader who just happens to be young.
The great American computer scientist Alan Kay, who invented SmallTalk and Object Oriented Programming (OOP), once said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”  Joel is inventing the future at ITAMCO as well as his many contributions to MTConnect. I love to talk to Joel because it gives me a glimpse into where manufacturing is going. Joel is able to predict the future because he is helping to invent it. The future of manufacturing is very bright and very cool.  It will be both fun and educational to watch what Joel does next.