These are heady times for geeks. The word “geek” traces back to the 16th century; it was derived from the Middle Low German word for fool. Two centuries later, it was used for circus sideshow performers known for biting off the heads of live chickens or snakes. Today, geeks are mainstream, and the word is widely used to describe anyone passionate or obsessive about something particular.
A famous infographic by Flowtown depicts the evolution of the geek, and for all its wit and beauty, I find it lacking a critical detail: the manufacturing geek. The care and nourishment of manufacturing geeks is important to the ongoing vitality of the economy, something a number of columns have recently touched on:
- Manufacturing consultant Bill Waddell recounts working with a client who specifically seeks a manufacturing geek as their new operations leader because of the knowledge and passion that a geek brings to his or her work. Waddell notes that “most companies have operations folks who are technically competent, [who have] solid resumes with good experience; but they do their jobs with professional detachment. [Geeks] are not capable of such detachment. They do what they do because they love it.”
- The managing editor of manufacturing.net defends the idiosyncratic hobbies of geeks, hoping someday they’ll be as acceptable to the masses as sports like football. The upside? These folks and their interests provide the impetus “to influence a generation of Americans that will help us gain back the technical prowess we’ve lost.”
The 20th century is often called the American Century for a host of reasons, not the least of which is the competence of the country’s manufacturing. If you look at the people who most influenced business in the last century, you’ll find names such as Ford, Deming, Douglas, Boeing, Sloan, Watson, Wozniak, Jobs—all, in their own ways, manufacturing geeks.
I suspect this group would be largely pleased that these are indeed heady times for geeks, and would perhaps concur with me in saying that manufacturing geeks belong at the head of the class. This blog exists for manufacturing geeks like you and me, so it will constantly strive to address issues (and receive commentary) on things of interest to those who are passionate about manufacturing: from technical matters such as closed loop quality execution and business cases for advancing quality, to specific manufacturing sectors such as the solar and medical device industries.
Manufacturing geeks deserve their place, as well as their place in the sun. We will do our best to provide that here.