VIENNA, Ohio — At first, all Robert Kundel Jr. wanted to do was devise a faster, more efficient way to remove rust and other surface blemishes from the metal that every day comes through the door at his company, Kundel Industries in Vienna.
That was seven years ago. Today, that idea is a patented power tool stocked in one of the country’s largest retailers under one of the most recognized brand names in the industry.
“We’ve just shipped 13,384 units to Lowe’s,” says Kundel, chief operating officer at Kundel Industries, which manufactures cranes sold worldwide.
Kundel has started a new company, Wellington Corp. LLC, to contract, manufacture and distribute the new product – The Restorer.
The tool has begun trickling into Lowe’s retail stores on the West Coast and should be available here by Nov. 1 under the Porter Cable brand, a subsidiary of Stanley Black & Decker.
“It’s going directly from the ports to the stores instead of going to a main distribution center,” Kundel says. “That takes too long, and they wanted this out as soon as possible.”
His newly packaged Restorer – serial No. 1 – sits atop his office desk and he flips open the box to demonstrate how it works.
Kundel’s invention is a hand-held power tool that uses a belt drive to spin a small roller.
The roller drum holds circular sleeves of sandpaper and other abrasives and, as it spins, the tool strips paint, stains and rust as the operator moves it along a surface such as wood, metal or concrete.
The device can also be used to polish, buff or clean surfaces by using interchangeable accessories such as a buffing wheel or polishing roller.
“It’s pretty lightweight, about 4½ pounds,” Kundel says.
One of the more innovative features is that it can be connected to a vacuum. That allows excess debris or dust to be contained instead of leaving a mess behind.
Moreover, Kundel’s tool differs from more traditional belt or circular sanders in that it generates only minimal heat when the sand grit hits the surface.
“It keeps the surface cool. When you heat up paint or stain, it gets gummy,” he explains, “and then you ruin the sandpaper.”
The Restorer eliminates this problem.
Kundel came up with the idea seven years ago as he was looking for a better way to strip rust from the metal products that Kundel Industries uses to fabricate its line of bridge and workstation cranes and lift systems. “We do a lot of rust removal and paint removal from steel here,” he says. “We would usually use an angle grinder to do that.”
However, angle grinders left jagged-edged marks on the material and Kundel wanted to develop a new tool that would provide a faster, smoother solution in preparing metal surfaces. He developed a crude prototype that worked so well he thought it would be a great idea to patent and market the product.
“It took seven years from this prototype to the product,” Kundel says.
The final tool is a much sleeker version of the earlier model and retails for just under $100. Next year, the product will be sold worldwide under the Black & Decker name, he says.
What is most intriguing about the business arrangement is that Kundel’s Wellington Corp. is just the third company to enter into a “reverse licensing agreement” with Stanley Black & Decker, Kundel says.
“I use their name and pay them a royalty, rather than them paying me a royalty,” he says. “I own the exclusive rights to this product in the United States.”
The profits, he says, should be much higher than had he signed a traditional licensing agreement. All proceeds are directed to developing a training center for pastors in North Carolina. “I wanted to give something back,” he says.
The key was securing a strong brand alignment along with a contract manufacturer, says Matt Gennari, who worked for Black & Decker 20 years and today is vice general manager of U.S. operations for Jinding, a Chinese manufacturer that produces the product for Wellington Corp.
“I have a vertically integrated plant in China that we’re working with,” he says. “We were able to bring this product to market very rapidly.”
Gennari says it’s always fulfilling to see an idea come across his desk with a well-executed business plan for a product that lives up to its billing.
“You have to go through a product development cycle,” he says. “Robert’s invention and my team in China made it work. We had the industrial design, functionality and the tools needed to do it.”
Jinding is the largest privately owned power tool manufacturer in China. Says Gennari, “It’s a fantastic, state-of-the-art facility and has a great supply chain that makes quality products.”
The Restorer began as a prototype and spent about nine months moving through the phases of product development. This involved 3-D computer drawing and design, the production of several models, and the addition of technical specifics such as the motor and gear housings.
“There were three or four models created in the pre-production stage,” Gennari says. “Sometimes this can take 18 months to two years. It depends on the complexity of the product. We’ve tested this extensively, so we’re very pleased.”
Gennari was inspired by Kundel’s devotion to his product, faith and mission – to build a pastoral center from the profits the product generated. “It’s great to have winners come across your desk,” he says.
The Restorer will continue to evolve and Kundel plans to introduce other accessories soon. “We plan to come out with scrubbing bristles,” he says, “so you can clean grout and other surfaces.”
Pictured: Kundel shows the prototype (left) and the finished product sold under the Porter Cable brand, a subsidiary of Stanley Black & Decker.
Copyright 2016 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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