Posted by Don Schaeffer, a guest writer on Dec 9th 2019

Interview with Bill Knowles, Product Developer

We are talking today with Bill Knowles, the Project Manager and Head of Automation for Cavallero Plastics and CPI Products. Bill is an expert in the plastics industry. He is the chief innovator, inventor and lead engineer of the Universal Roller Skid product line, patented and manufactured by CPI Products.

Int: Hello Mr. Knowles. Tell us, why do they call you "Wild Bill?"

BK: I don't know really. I guess it's because I like to design, to think outside the box. Designing new products that solve problems takes a little wild thinking, some taking of risks. I like to improve products that exist, make them work better. In doing product design I have to create automation methods all the way down to fixtures and tools. I work with tools that go at the end of the arm. I design and build the robotics to use the tools. It involves PLC chemistry, pneumatics, hydraulics, servos. Customers travel with me from napkin sketches through final production.

Int: Sounds like you have an impressive number of skills.

BK: Well I think I'm pretty good at inventing things. I enjoy restoring old cars as a hobby. I also do a lot of carpentry. But my real work involved designing mechanisms, automation, pneumatics and machine tools.

Int: As project manager you must have a fair bit of contact with salespeople.

BK: Well sales management is definitely a part of my concentration and my responsibility. I don't know where I got that skill from, but it seems to work. I also have to deal with customers and customer service. Since we are selling products that I designed and built I am the one they call on for customer service. Strategic planning and marketing strategy are big parts of product development. Everything has to come together to meet markets. Manufacturing is really what I'm into.

Int: For more than a decade, you have been working with your invention, the Universal Roller Skid. That is really an idea of a team development effort which you headed. Tell us about that.

BK: Well I was given the responsibility to develop the Universal Roller Skid product line back in 2003. The inspection camera industry really needed an agile, durable and reasonably priced large pipe centering device . The skid had to adjust easily from six-inch to twelve-inch pipes. The wheels had to run smoothly and as many kinds of cameras as possible have to be accommodated.

It took ten years. We had feedback and suggestions from hundreds of real world tradesmen as well as many exhibiting companies. We worked with their suggestions to develop a device that could negotiate 90 degree corners, with a safety system so that it could be retrieved quickly in emergencies. It has an automatic centering design. You can mount flashlights. We also have some unique accessories for it. I'm really pleased with how this came out.

For the last ten years we have been perfecting this tool and heavily marketing it. The CPI Products Universal Roller Skid has become a standard product. You can visit our channel on YouTube to see it action.

The artful thing about the Universal Roller Skid design is the simplicity. There are no complicated moving parts. It is enormously flexible and simple to use. It comes with fittings for a variety of camera sizes. The thin wheels mounted on spring mounts allow it to move freely in any size pipe. It will cut through debris and allow most of the debris to pass between the wheels. A simple release device will allow it to be pulled from the pipe with just a tug on a connecting string. This is an elegant engineering job that my team came up with.

Int: I guess nitty-gritty management is not something that you really like.

BK: Well I like working with others on that. But I have to do my share of budgeting and human resources things like team building. We have quite a good team that does a lot of the work that goes into my department.

Int: Well a lot of people have good things to say about you, Bill. One fellow who calls you "William" said he missed working with you.

BK: Nice to hear.

Int: Thanks Bill. Nice to talk to you.

CPI Products is a family owned company that develops, manufactures, and markets the Universal Roller Skid product line for the push camera and pipeline inspection sectors. CPI Products is the sole manufacturer of the Roller Skid product line. Their products are available 24/7 online or by contacting various local distributors. Contact us to learn more.