Kline Technologies in Maryville Gets Advice From SBTDC
Sebastian Kline doesn’t fit the standard entrepreneurial profile.
His company, Kline Tech, which seeks to design and produce the world’s first functional smart pallet, is his first commercial endeavor, formed when he was a younger teen. (He’s just 17 now.)
His idea: automated pallets that can scoot around a warehouse under their own battery power. The pallets require no manual control whatsoever, commanded by Kline Tech’ radio-frequency identification device (RFID) warehousing system. If the user so chooses, however, he can retake manual control using a mobile device app. The beauty of such an app is that it allows warehouses with the RFID system to do business with nonupgraded warehouses.
This might sound far-fetched, but it’s firmly rooted in current technology. RFIDs are increasingly miniaturized and sophisticated devices that can be affixed to any object to track and manage inventory, assets, people, cats and dogs — almost anything that can be tracked. RFID offers big advantages over bar codes: the tag can be read if passed near a reader, even if it is covered by the object or not visible. And unlike barcodes, RFID tags can be read dozens at a time.
Kline’s idea takes this concept one step further. He and his team, fellow Central High student Max Mitchem, the firm’s head of marketing, design and websites, and software specialist Brian Simon, are perfecting a smart phone app that can be used to call up whatever pallets you want shipped. Just point the device, and pallets move to the loading dock automatically.
Like most ah-ha! moments, inspiration struck unexpectedly. Kline was waiting for a flight home from an uncle’s wedding at Tokyo’s Narita Airport and noticed planes being loaded with mobile pallets made of hardened plastic; the pallets used a system of rotating balls. This was clearly an innovation. Most pallets today are made of wood and are immobile. Wooden pallets have a very short life span and simply cannot withstand the damage caused by today’s high-volume shipping tools.
How could these smart pallets be made even smarter, he wondered? Could they be engineered to load themselves onto vehicles? Kline rejected that idea. Such a pallet would require costly upgrades in warehouses and trucks. But a tough, reusable pallet that could get itself to the dock for loading would save man-hours of forklift and other warehousing operations, not to mention the cost of constantly replacing pallets.
Kline has benefitted from the sound business advice of first Larry Lee, director of the Northwest Missouri State University (NMSU) Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTD and of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a business and technology incubator, then of Rebecca Evans, director of the NMSU SBTDC in St. Joseph, his current advisor.
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