Building A Better Blade
MUSKEGON — A drug store manager, a marketing specialist and the owner of an injection molding company came together to make box cutters safer for users and for the products they open.
Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Walgreens store manager Jeff Kempker started thinking there must be a better way to open boxes than by using a traditional open blade, the kind used as weapons by the 9/11 hijackers.
“I guess that was the inspiration behind it,” he said. “I sat down and started working at that point.”
After working on the project for a few months and shelving it a few times, Kempker decided he needed some help from Orville Crain, marketing specialist, and Matt Jacobs, owner and president of Advanced Molding Solutions.
“I brought in Orville and Matt because I was just at a stalemate,” Kempker said. “I had the design but I couldn’t figure out the material.”
Both Crain and Jacobs were excited about the idea when Kempker approached them.
“We have a mini inventors’ group, and we talked about the project and I got excited right away,” Jacobs said.
The three men worked together on the design and developed the product and the company, Klever Kutter LLC. The Klever Kutter is a box cutter shaped like a hammer-head shark, with the blade fully protected from cutting anything but the box.
“It’s the best of all worlds because it’s a small item, it’s inexpensive, it’s lightweight — but it really works great,” Crain said.
The product was launched in August 2005.
“It took probably four or five or six different prototype variations,” Jacobs said. “You have to think about the angle of the blade, types of material that were used. It’s been a neat partnership between Orville, Jeff and I.”
The lightweight tool, which has met with positive feedback and suggestions for variations, is the only disposable box cutter on the market, Kempker said. With some complaints that it needs to be more heavy-duty, the three men are working to meet those demands.
“We know for sure there’s going to be at least three more versions of the Klever Kutter,” he said.
Crain said his conservative estimate is that more than a million pieces of the Klever Kutter will be ordered next year, considering orders with customers such as food service industry supplier San Jamar, which will cement the product’s placement in the European market. The company is also working on a contract for distribution with Lowe’s Home Improvement as the sole big-box distributor for a year.
Also in the works is a prototype for a heavy-duty Klever Kutter and a keychain Klever Kutter that will be distributed through Crown Products, a national promotional company. The miniature Klever Kutter will have a company’s name on it and be used as a promotional item.
The partners are also working on a custom tool for a pharmaceutical company.
“We have several people that have mandated our tool in their facility,” Crain said.
David Hintz, accident fund loss prevention advisor for Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, said his company strongly encourages the use of the Klever Kutter to its clients to prevent injuries such as cuts on the legs, hands and arms.
“It’s a good product and we would expect to see better results with it,” said Hintz, comparing Klever Kutter to open blades. “That’s one of the better or best ones we’ve ever seen. It’s simple and it’s effective, and that’s about all you can really ask from a tool like that. It’s very safe for its intended purpose.”
Hintz said using a product like the Klever Kutter can save money by eventually resulting in fewer insurance claims and lowering insurance costs.
Though he said his company does not offer a discount for using the product, Hintz said pricing does reflect the client’s willingness to comply with safety regulations and suggestions.
Beyond being safer for those using it, Klever Kutter is also safer for others, Crain said.
“You can’t cut anybody else with it, so it can’t be used as a weapon,” he said.
Klever Kutter will soon expand its marketing efforts with an improved Web site and a newsletter.