Indiana’s Kit Containers Grows Its Business with a Purpose

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Ritchie Bros. Asset Solutions Helps Indiana Manufacturing Company Manage, Track, and Sell Inventory.

For Aaron Smith, a key to doing good business is never losing sight of the importance of people. The President of Elwood, Indiana’s Kit Containers founded his company with partner Rob Pape in 2014 by finding a gap in the steel parts marketplace. But their origin story also springs from a situation where the partners were faced with losing their staff. Rather than let employees go, the partners innovated a people-first solution and now they are thriving.

“We started out providing manufacturers with a semi-finished product, then they would finish the part and re-sell it,” recalls Aaron about the business’ early days. “I knew this one customer was not going to take the product I produced for him, so we figured how to make the part and created a sub-assembly so he could meet his deadline. When that job was done, all that work for us went away. But we didn’t want to lay anyone off, so we desperately tried to find something else to do. We started making hoppers, picked up a few accounts, and it took off from there.”

Today, Kit Containers manufactures and distributes bedding boxes, hoppers, pushers, roll-off parts and attachments to customers all across North America.

As business grows, so does a need for asset management

Back in 2014, when the young company started manufacturing hoppers, they called on Ritchie Bros. auctions to sell their excess product. Now that their business and product list has expanded considerably, they needed an inventory management system (IMS) to keep track of their growing asset lists.

Kit Containers now uses Ritchie Bros. Asset Management solutions to organize, track, and sell their products. The web-based software tool helps Aaron easily workflow his inventory into upcoming auction events and then get detailed reporting all from a comprehensive dashboard view.

“I like that I can load all these items into the system – it takes away a lot of the paperwork,” said Aaron. “It is far easier to search and review IMS reports than print an emailed list of sold assets. The best part is we can easily view listed and sold items with their final sale price. It is just a click of a button to download a spreadsheet of items that have sold.

“To get a report, all I have to do is log onto the IMS system and I have it in two seconds. It was great. It was the same for our accounting department. They can find everything very quick on the dashboard. I expect it will just get better and better. Ritchie Bros. Asset Solutions is clearly on the cutting edge of customer-serving technology.”

Ritchie Bros. Asset Solutions is clearly on the cutting edge of customer-serving technology.”

Using Ritchie Bros. to expand and reach new customers

Using Ritchie Bros. disposition channels, like online Timed Auctions, has allowed Aaron’s relatively young company to expand its customer base and reach new buyers in disparate regions. Selling through auctions and leveraging Ritchie Bros.’ global buyer demand puts Kit Containers’ product in front of bidders who might never otherwise know about the company.

“There’s no doubt that we reach more buyers thanks to Ritchie Bros.’ wide buyer base across the country,” said Aaron. “People who never normally buy from us are finding out about us because it’s there and in front of them.

“We always want to have a presence in the auction. There are people who buy our product from Ritchie Bros. that wouldn’t find us any other way.”

(video shows buyer reach of Kit Containers using Ritchie Bros. sales channels)

Ritchie Bros. channels also provide new customers an outlet to discover and try out new products, like Kit Containers. Instead of making a big order sight unseen, potential customers can get one or two pieces in an auction, discover and like the product, and then eventually make the call for a full order.

“Auction is a good part of our business, it allows us to grow,” he says. “The buyer has an opportunity to try our product, and then they can call us for more because they can only get a few at the sale. Some of these new customers will come back and order more and that was the original intent of using auctions.”

Making second chances a first priority

At Kit Containers, giving something back to people in their community is as important as taking in profit. The company has a mission to give workers, who have a history of incarceration, a second chance by providing employment.

It all started with Aaron’s partner, Rob, who started a prison ministry and would frequently be asked for help by inmates who needed a job once they got out. Rob responded to that challenge and convinced Aaron that they needed to step up for these people.

“It’s just something we try to do for the better of the community,” said Aaron. “About 9 out of 10 of our employees have some type of history of incarceration. At the beginning of last year, we started a non-profit called Reclamation Staffing, an org that also exists to connect people with God. Temp staffing services treat people like a commodity. These people all have a story and deserve to have voice, and not be swept under the rug like some temp services do.

“We should always give back – that’s what life is all about.”

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