Imre Killi, Managing Director, Killis Ltd., is one of the most vibrant young entrepreneurs in the global cleaning & hygiene industry. His passion for innovation and his products comes through every time you meet him. I met him twice this year, once at the Pulire Exhibition at Verona and then at the MECTW show in Dubai, where he was demonstrating to crowds at both venues the advantages of one of the products from the Motorscrubber range. We caught up amongst the hustle of the MECTW show earlier this November and spoke about his company, his vision for it and the Motorscrubber brand. Some excerpts…
Tell us about Killis’ history with the cleaning & hygiene industry
My father started Killis in 1964 by selling domestic cleaning machines like vacuum cleaners in Sheffield, England. Then, about 20 years ago, he ventured into the commercial cleaning equipment and hygiene business. Machines like scrubber driers and other paper products and chemicals were added to our portfolio. Gradually, he grew the company and bought another shop in Chesterfield and a warehouse in Handsworth, and we’ve been growing ever since really. My brother and I became actively involved in the company about 15 years ago.
What would you say has been the company’s biggest achievement in these years?
That would definitely be buying Motorscrubber. We were selling the Motorscrubber brand in large numbers first in England and then in Europe for just about 10 years and were bringing in about 50% of the business. In 2015, the American owners expressed interest in selling the company and we bought it over; the machine is extremely unique – diverse and user friendly - and there isn’t anything like it even today. As a result, today, the world market has opened up to us – we do business in America, Australia, Asia, Europe, etc.
Motorscrubber is the first brand that has the potential to be sold worldwide and we were excited to buy it because there were so many modifications we wanted to make to the machine and we knew that would improve its selling value. Since then, we have had several new products and have diversified the range. We have learned a lot from the industry over the years and have identified niches in the market that can be improved on. We are now in the position to bring our own ideas to life to improve those niche areas.
Tell us a little about your presence in the Middle East region. What is your fastest selling product here?
Dubai is a big market; people here are open minded to new technology and innovations. We met with Excel International – who is now our exclusive distributor in the UAE - a couple of years ago at the ISSA/INTERCLEAN Amsterdam Show. They are extremely successful at handling demos, trainings and sales for the machines. The company also handles India and Qatar region for us. Our company structure dictates that we work with one importer per country – unless it’s a really huge country like France where the importer sub contracts the distribution. We recently signed up with CHBIB in Saudi Arabia to handle that country as well and we have got some amazing leads. Having said that, we are still looking at how we can be present in Oman and Bahrain.
Today, companies are adopting Industry 4.0 from their manufacturing set-up till the operational phase. Where does Killis stand in this trend?
The future will be robotics. However, our niche being cleaning and maintenance of smaller, hard-to-reach areas, I’m not sure how much we can achieve with robotics. Having said that, we are in the process of planning a robotic product, which we will begin looking into development next year and has great potential. It is also quite different from the kind of robots you see in the industry nowadays.
A lot of emphasis is also being placed on sustainability. What is your opinion?
I agree that being environment-friendly is important. However, the concept of environment friendly chemicals has not taken off as well in England as was expected. They are quite expensive and don’t do much of the job required. However, we have found that solutions such as ozone-generated water work much better. That is possibly the future of eco-friendly products.
What would you deem to be the challenges of running a company of Killis’ stature?
My job is very varied, and being the Managing Director of the company, I have several things to do. At the moment, my challenge is putting in place a more powerful computer system to handle all areas of our company. We need lots of advanced features and software to take our company to the next level. So that’s something I’m working on. We recently overcame a major challenge – lack of space to keep up with the demands of the market. As a result we just moved to a new unit – a much bigger production facility with more staff. My challenges change month on month, but we are keeping up with them quite well.
What goes into developing the right product?
At the moment, I am responsible for the R&D and design ideas at the company. Ever since I was a child, I would take things apart and build them again. When I first started with the company, I used to repair all our cleaning machines from vacuums to scrubber driers and sweepers; I learned about how they worked, their faults, how they didn’t clean properly, etc. That learning has been extremely valuable and enables me to conceptualise a good machine today. In general, a new product from conception till it is out in the market takes about 12 months – which is not too bad. However, I am in the process of hiring an engineer who will make this task easier. I also found out recently that patenting a product is a costly and time consuming job. But if you don’t do it, it can be copied and that is a major concern. Finally, and possibly one of the most important aspects of product design - ergonomics plays a huge role in the success of our machines.
Give us an idea of the various products that Motorscrubber has on offer
The MS2000 is a battery-operated scrubbing machine with a huge range of accessories for deep cleaning and polishing a huge range of areas, such as washrooms, showers, stairs, kitchens, swimming pools the list goes on. The jet is a backpack machine with the same features of the MS2000 also including a pump and chemical mechanism, for injecting chemical at the scrubbing head. We have launched the Prowash at the show this year. This innovative machine has a stainless steel chassis, 50 litres of water, 5 litre chemical concentrate, 20 m of hose and can be used for scrubbing and rinsing external surfaces, detailing work, metros, yachts, aircrafts, etc. It’s the only machine that mechanically scrubs surfaces, so its labour saving since its faster and the results are far superior than manual methods.
What are your strategies for the next 5 years? What is the future of the company?
We are looking at building a big new facility in Sheffield – which is 5 times bigger than what we have now because the company is growing at a rapid rate. I want to get more into manufacturing our own unique patented products. I have lots of ideas for products which have huge potential in todays market place. So my goal over the next few years is to make them, bring them to the market and grow our presence around the world.