Persistence and Passion Creates Unique Cleantech Product

By Graham Russell, Founder and Principal of TruPoint Advisors- Denver
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Jon Giltner is a structural engineer. He’s also passionate about resource productivity and has long been seriously offended by the huge quantities of perfectly usable lumber that are wasted in the construction industry and dumped into landfills. Now, after 15 years of sustained technical effort and innovation, Giltner and his company, Boulder-based Reconnx, are finally seeing the results of their labors in the form of rapidly rising sales of their unique and patented power tool for removing nails from lumber, the V20 Nail Kicker® denailing gun.

Put simply, the Nail Kicker® is a reverse nail gun. Place the tool’s nose over the point of a nail protruding from a piece of lumber, pull the trigger and compressed air drives a steel pin at tremendous velocity through the nose onto the nail point, forcing the nail out of the wood. When used on the head of an embedded nail, the V20 is even powerful enough to pound smaller nails right through boards made of softer woods.     

As any do-it-yourselfer knows, removing nails from wood using a hammer and pry bar is a miserably laborious process and typically results in damage to the wood, not to mention fingers and thumbs! Reconnx’ studies show that using the Nail Kicker®  improves nail removal productivity anywhere from 100 to 500%. For companies involved in the deconstruction industry, pallet recyclers, concrete formers and import/export crating companies, the tool is often a financial lifesaver. Says one happy South African customer: “utilizing a single tool ……. working a 5 day week, in one full year we have removed a total of 6 tonnes of nails. The Nail Kicker® has opened up a whole new world for our company, speeding up production and dramatically reducing the number of people working on our different products.” Current FOB price for scrap nails in China? $200 - 500 a ton. This customer has achieved a nice ROI right there before even accounting for his reduced wage bill and the value of the recovered lumber.

Giltner founded Reconnx in 1996 to develop technologies for reducing the volume of waste lumber in the construction industry. After experimenting with various ideas, in 2001 he stumbled across an early version of the tool manufactured by Okabe, a Japanese company that was having little success in marketing it outside Japan and had little interest in modifying it to meet Reconnx' specifications. A chance encounter led Giltner to an importer who arranged for two similar tools to be shipped to the US for testing. He selected the more powerful one for production but it proved to have serious design and manufacturing flaws which revealed themselves to the company's detriment in its first months on the market.

This unfortunate setback did have the benefit of helping Reconnx to establish a reputation for excellent customer service, but when the manufacturer (rightly) discontinued production of the tool, Reconnx was left without a product to sell. Turning now to Besco, a quality Taiwanese manufacturer and maker of the smaller, less powerful tool tested earlier, Reconnx was able to generate steady sales in the US market but the tool, while reliable, lacked the power to satisfy the full range of market needs. 

Working closely with Giltner, Besco built prototypes of larger, more powerful tools which, after extensive testing, formed the basis of the current V20 version of the Nail Kicker®. But about the time full scale production was due to commence, Besco was purchased by the large US-based toolmaker, Stanly Bostich, which decided to eliminate third party production ventures. Reconnx was left without a product – again!

After searching vainly for over a year for a US manufacturer capable of producing the newly designed tool, Giltner was able to find another Taiwanese manufacturer with the skills required to produce the new Nail Kicker®. Working closely with the company's manufacturing experts, Giltner completed a final redesign of the tool to accommodate three interchangeable nose/drive-pin assemblies so that customers could use a single denailing gun to remove nails of all types and sizes. The new design also incorporated a retractable feature into the tool’s nose, which significantly reduces the likelihood of injury from accidentally firing it. Reconnx has now secured patents on these features, which, together with other engineering improvements, have significantly raised the versatility, performance, reliability and safety of the tool.

Reconnx has been selling the V20 since June 2010 and sales volume has risen steadily. For the 12 months ending May 2012, unit sales increased 25% over the preceding 12 month period. More significantly, distributorships have now been established in several parts of the US and Colombia, and the unit sale run rate for the past 6 months is about 65% above that of late 2010. Nearly 25% of the company’s sales now come from overseas – remarkable given the fact that financial resources have limited marketing efforts to periodic advertising in tool and pallet magazines, occasional appearances at construction industry shows and a simple web site.

Reconnx is actively seeking additional US and overseas distributors and is examining other ways of expanding awareness of the Nail Kicker® in what are highly fragmented markets, mostly dominated by small businesses. For his next act, Giltner is resurrecting a patented design he developed years ago for a nail-pulling and broken screw removal drill attachment.

Giltner’s never-say-die entrepreneurial persistence and his passion for improving resource utilization provide an outstanding example of how sustainability-based thinking can drive game-changing technological innovation.

Watch a demo video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxPImnB2i1E

Interested in becoming a distributor? Contact Jon Giltner at: jxg@reconnx.com

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