Father’s Day is the perfect reason to celebrate a father-daughter bond, particularly one formed and strengthened in a manufacturing environment. John Memmelaar, Jr. is president of Royal Master Grinders (longtime IMTS exhibitor, booth #136626) and father of two daughters. The younger is on a pre-medical track, and oldest daughter Olivia, now a senior mechanical engineering student at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), has always been happiest working with her dad.  “I grew up running around the shop,” recalls Olivia. “Dad would bring me in on a Saturday. I would have a bagel or a muffin with grandpa. Sometimes Jose Hernandez, who started out in maintenance, would take me and put my little car seat on the floor sweeper, push me around, and talk to me. I just enjoyed being around here, spending time with the people.”  Royal Master Grinders, Oakland, New Jersey, has been manufacturing the world’s most advanced centerless grinding systems since 1950. Memmelaar’s father was employee number 14 at Royal Master Grinders. John Sr. started driving the delivery van in high school, worked his way up through engineering into sales, and eventually into management. John Jr. started working at the company full-time when he was 10 years old, counting inventory and mowing the lawn. In 2019, father and son bought out the last partner, and now Royal Master Grinders is wholly owned by the Memmelaar family.  By the time Olivia was in high school, she could read blueprints and operate one of the company’s Hurco three-axis vertical mills. “The only way to get me to stop running around was to show me what he was doing,” says Olivia. “I learned a lot about many things here. I knew how to do a lot of little things by doing them once or twice.” Later, when they had a CNC that wasn’t running, she was tasked with learning how to operate it. She had learned how to read prints, so when they said, “make this,” she did just that. From there, she went on to load tools.  “It did come pretty naturally,” says Olivia. “Once they showed me how to program it, I knew in my head how to make things.” If Olivia was happy, her dad was even happier. “It was amazing. That’s the only word I can use to explain it,” says Memmelaar. “I got to understand how proud it must have made my dad feel to have me at the company. I got that feeling every day Olivia was here, whether she was working here during high school or full-time during the summers.” Car Bonding The Memmelaar family has a Model T addiction. They own a total of 12 cars, and none of them were built after 1915. They are project cars lovingly restored. “We like to build Model Ts. We like to drive them, and we like to fix them,” states Memmelaar. “When the kids were growing up, there was no TV in our house during the week, but I would have the Yankees game on the radio in the garage. Olivia would come in when she was a little girl of five or six years. As long as she was hanging out, I would have her hand me tools while I was underneath a Model T.” Little did her dad realize what exposing her to cars and the internet would do. As an 11-year-old, Olivia was scrolling through a Model T forum.  “I saw an essay contest and the winner would get a Model T,” says Olivia. “I wrote a little essay, sent in a CD of me driving, and made a little poster. I did end up winning the contest.” “Olivia’s mother and I were shocked,” says Memmelaar. “We never anticipated our 11-year-old daughter would win a Model T. It’s not something a parent’s prepared for, but hey, why not? They showed up on our doorstep with a trailer and Model T that was what they call a rolling chassis. We got it running in three to four hours. We had lunch on the driveway with gasoline all around us.” “Restoring that car together was our fun project for about three years,” says Olivia. “My car is red. If you're a Model T person, you know that a 1915 Model T should be black because Henry Ford said you could have any color as long as it’s black. He wanted to keep production moving and didn’t want colors, but I wanted my car to be red, so it’s red. Other than that, it’s a Roadster and has a bell on it, not a horn, and that’s one of my favorite features.” Learning Leadership While Olivia spent most of her youth at Royal Masters, she was also inspired by her mom, Janet, who runs a different manufacturing plant.  “Mom is a large reason I knew there was a place for women having leadership positions in manufacturing,” says Olivia. Today she is in the last year of a five-year mechanical engineering technology/mechanical engineering program at RIT, where internships are mandatory. During the summer of 2023 Olivia participated in an engineering co-op program at Mazak (IMTS booth #338300) in Florence, Kentucky. For the summer of 2024, she has an internship at Stellantis North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  Olivia is also the manager of RIT’s Baja team, which is a fiercely competitive project of Society of Automative Engineers where college students design, fabricate, and race a Baja car.  “Dad preaches at work that he is not going to have someone do a job that he wouldn’t do, and I try to follow that in what I do,” says Olivia. “If I’m telling a freshman to go do something on the Baja team that’s a tough job, I’m going to do it right there beside them. I also learned work ethic. Dad puts a lot of effort into what he does, and I try mirror he does.” That work ethic started at home, making sure chores like unloading the dishwasher were done and that homework received a priority. Success wasn’t based on the grade, but on giving the best effort (for the record, Olivia calls her younger sister “the smart one”). Memmelaar is proud that he and his wife never talked down to their children’s age. Dinner table conversations were about real life and discussed in adult terms. “This is life. We’re not going to hide life from you,” he says. Today, Memmelaar expresses a mutual appreciation for learning from his daughter.  “I’ve learned patience. I’ve learned how to teach better. I learned how to be a good father along the way. The learning is endless. In fact, every January 1st, my wife and I declare ourselves back in the running for parent of the year. It’s a new slate. We’ve never gotten through January. This year, with both girls away at college, we’re still in the running.”  
For this father-daughter duo, manufacturing and cars are a shared passion. John Memmelaar, Jr. is president of Royal Master Grinders and a Model T fanatic. Daughter Olivia grew up wrenching on cars with dad at home and learning how to run a vertical mill at the factory. Their experiences together have been nothing short of amazing.