When ELS Founder Jimmy Kukulski talks about the factory of the future, he describes a facility with humming machines, the Industrial Internet of Things, artificial intelligence software, sensors—and millions of super-clean, precisely timed drops of industrial lubricant.

“Industry 4.0 is going to require Maintenance 4.0, and precision lubrication is a huge part of that,” he says. “As more factories implement automation technology, they’re also turning to automated maintenance solutions that deliver the right lubrication at the right time in the right quantity and at the right cleanliness.”

A veteran of the U.S. Navy and a lubrication expert, the Grand Haven, Mich. native has always been obsessed with machines. As a six-year old, he ran his bike into the back of a parked van and knocked himself out. When he came to, he carried his bike home, took it apart, fixed it and lubed the chain.

Over the past 25 years, he’s worked on thousands of machines and diesel engines in his work as a consultant, an independent sales representative for one of the nation’s leading lubrication firms, and as owner of a diesel engine business. A graduate of Liberty University, Kukulski is a member of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE) and the International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML). In his spare time, he’s involved in diesel drag racing.

Before Kukulski joined the Navy, a 90-year-old co-worker and mentor at an auto-parts store where he worked taught him the secret of machines: Pay attention to each moving part.

“He taught me to look at each part and what it’s doing, what it’s connected to and what it sounds like, feels like and smells like when it’s doing its job,” he says.

“Honestly, you can even taste it. If you breathe in really heavy, you can get the lubricant that’s atomized from a machine, especially if it’s a hydraulic machine or turbine that’s so hot you can actually taste the vapor and figure out what’s going on with the lubricant.

“I’ve done it so many times, I’ve probably cut 10 years off my life, but you just kind of get used to it.”