Bolingbrook's Wi-Tronix brings innovation to rail industry
Bad puns aside, you could say that Larry Jordan is on the right track for success.
The company that Jordan co-founded in his basement in 2005 has grown to become a driving force in the innovation of the railroad industry, bringing safety and efficiency systems into an area that has a long and storied history in the Chicago region.
Jordan is president and chief technology officer of Wi-Tronix, which makes hardware and software ranging from event recorders and video monitoring systems -- a locomotive's "black box" -- to fuel sensor and monitoring systems and "complementary" systems for Positive Train Control networks, which are designed to stop trains before accidents can occur.
The Bolingbrook company's equipment can be found on all of Amtrak's locomotives, Jordan said, as well as on major freight carriers such as BNSF and Canadian National. Wi-Tronix systems are also in place in Mexico's major rail consortium, Ferromex, and in some rail carriers in Australia.
For Jordan -- who says he "always been interested in transportation" -- the rail bug got to him during a college internship several years ago at General Motors' Electro-Motive plant in LaGrange.
"I fell in love with the technology, but also the history and the opportunities in an industry that is well established," he said. "I saw how technology could be applied to a mature industry to improve things that were important, like safety, efficiency and reliability."
Jordan went on to work with the GM division as an engineer and tech manager. He said while it was part of a global company, the division had a "scrappy, entrepreneurial spirit" that he appreciated.
But in 2005, the division was going in a different direction and eventually was sold to a private equity firm. So, armed with a business plan and an SBA loan, he and a partner set up Wi-Tronix. Its first product was a system that allowed rail carriers to know where a locomotive was, whether it was operating properly and whether the engine's crew was operating in a safe and efficient manner, Jordan said.
He notes that product remains the core of Wi-Tronix's portfolio, evolving over the years to add more features and capabilities like collision, fuel economy and emissions sensors.
That evolution has led to WI-Tronix's latest version, Violet, which Jordan calls a "three-in-one" product, featuring the core system with the addition of black box and video recording capabilities.
"That's what we do a lot," he said. "We create these solutions where we put a lot of different information together to provide an end solution for our customers."
As Wi-Tronix continues to evolve, Jordan said the company is moving toward the development of more autonomous operations. He envisions future systems adapting artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies to reduce human interaction in areas such as fueling, scheduling and even locomotive operations.
"A lot of solutions are decision-support systems right now, information that is gathered to help a person make a decision," he said. "They will eventually become decision systems, where our product makes a decision, and the last step is that the product makes a decision and acts upon it."
In addition, Wi-Tronix also plans to expand into the light rail market, adapting its technology from freight and passenger trains into interurban streetcar and subway systems.
The company landed an investment from global conglomerate Siemens in 2017, Jordan said, which will help in expanding into the light rail market, as well as into Europe.
Being an innovator in an industry steeped in history and tradition can be difficult, Jordan said. But he points to what Elon Musk has done in the auto industry as an example that change can happen.
"In the rail industry, because it is so steeped in tradition, there is a lot of resistance to change," Jordan said. "To see what (Musk) has been able to do in the auto industry ... there's a lot of correlation in the rail industry."
Des Plaines Office Equipment and its affiliates changed their name to Pulse Technology at the beginning of the year.
The name change reflects the shift the longtime company has made toward managed IT and print services. Started in 1955 by Vince Miceli as an office supply company, the company has grown through acquisitions and expansions under second-generation owners Chip and Victor Miceli. The company moved its headquarters from Des Plaines to Elk Grove Village years ago and most recently moved to Carol Stream.
"We think the name reflects our expanding scope of technology and activity," Chip Miceli said in a statement.
Ownership and management of the company remains the same.
Kerry Lavelle, founding partner of Lavelle Law in Schaumburg, will be a featured speaker at the 2019 American Bar Association Midyear Meeting in Las Vegas in January.
His presentation, entitled "The Business of Law -- How to Grow Your Practice," will be directed at solo attorneys, small firms and general practice lawyers looking to grow their business.
Lavelle's appearance at the Midyear Meeting will come shortly after he was a featured speaker on the American Bar Association's GP Solo Live Podcast. Lavelle frequently speaks at ABA events and national legal conferences, specifically addressing best practices for running a law firm.
Lavelle's talk will take place at 3 p.m. Jan. 25 at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.
Wi-Tronix631 E Boughton Road, Suite 240Bolingbrook, IL 60440-3455 (888) WI-TRONIX (948-7664)https://www2.wi-tronix.com/ Industry: Railroad safety
Year Founded: 2004
Number of Employees: 125
Top executive: Larry Jordan, president and chief technology officer