Meet The Inventor
My story is not much different than most people. As a sales manager at a pulp & paper mill in Canada, I (along with others) was responsible for keeping orders coming in for our two paper machines - you know “sales guys - putting square pegs in round holes”.
The idea for RollRazor came to me in the form of a problem (as most inventions do). I noticed that 80% of our time was spent on only 20% of the business. Month after month the sales group would scramble to find orders to fit the order book, trim the paper machines with the right (width) orders, or sell inventory no one wanted because the rolls were in the wrong size. I can hear the sales folks laughing now - the life of a salesman! It seemed at the time we always had the wrong size rolls for the orders.
It occurred to me, if we had a slitter/rewinder in our plant, our problems would be solved. A slitter/rewinder (at the time) was the only equipment known to change the size of a finished roll. If our plant had one, the issues we were experiencing with orders could be re-worked and fixed. After pointing the obvious shortcoming out to our owners which promptly said “NO!“. Why? “because they are high cost and can have quality problems” That “No” would change my path in life for the next 10 years.
My father once told me that man has an innate yearning to create. I have always enjoyed building things, from tree cabins to robotic systems. I have always constructed, created and looked to the future of what could be created. Growing up on a farm in central Maine taught me the value of hard work, common sense, and the necessity of building what you do not have. “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work” - Thomas A. Edison.
In wanting to solve the problem at the mill, I set out to create a totally new technology that would fix the inherent problems found in the 95-year-old slitter/rewinder. In the fall of 2001, I hired a group of engineers to study the process of cutting rolls with a large blade. Later, through patent searches, I discovered that this very process had been tried numerous times in the past - as early as 1914 - and had failed every time (not a favorable outcome for me, considering I had already spend all that I had developing it).
Often times in life, however, naiveté is a good thing, and prayer trumps logic. What you do not know in the present may prove to be a good thing in the long run. It turns out, in fact, that this was the case with RollRazor. After moving forward on the project, I discovered why past projects had failed—the technology that made RollRazor successful was not available at the time those earlier attempts were made.
Four years to the month after spending that first dollar, with no real idea of success, the RollRazor prototype set two world production records. Make no doubt about it, though. Words could never explain the depths of discouragement and failure I experienced in the development of the product, experiences felt only by those who have everything on the line. I often say, “Inventing is like sailing off the coast of Maine in the fog. You must get used to moving forward while losing sight of the shore.” Having faith in what you are doing is all that matters! If it is strong enough, it will carry you to the finish line.