KSi, still growing over 20 years later
Family-owned, KSi has been in business in rural Sabetha for over 20 years. In that time, it has seen great employee growth, several expansion projects, and kept up with technological advances with innovative products and services that are unique in the manufacturing industry.
CEO Paul Kaeb, who has led the company since its start up in 2001 and the establishment of the Sabetha facility in 2004, is pleased with how far the company has come.
“Two to three years ago, we made a concentrated effort to move from who we are in the industry as KSi Conveyors, Inc. That’s still our company name, but we have switched just to KSi and our website is now KSiEdge.com, because we are much more than just a conveyor company,” Paul said. “A share of our interest is in conveyors, because we build a quality conveyor. Our conveyors are very well known in the industry, and we have carried that reputation into developing other innovative products.”
Under Paul’s direction, KSi is transitioning to the second generation of leadership with COO Jason Kaeb, Director of Technology Duane Kaeb and Paul’s son-in-law CFO Neal Kellenberger. Adam Renyer and Eric Meyer make up the Director Team.
The first office for KSi began in Cissna Park, Ill., where they focus primarily on the conveyor line. Office space and production size are very similar between Cissna Park and Sabetha, although they do different things from a production standpoint, with management over various aspects of the company at both locations.
“We’ve always been fortunate to be able to work closely between the two facilities, communicating and managing together,” Jason said.
In 2004, KSi had nine full-time and six part-time employees. Presently, the company has close to 120 employees at two stateside facilities along with several remote employees located across the states, including Ohio, Nebraska and Washington, as well as teams in Brazil and Canada.
After initially working from the house, KSi built a small building on Paul’s farm in 2003, where he and the earliest Sabetha employees worked until 2007, when the first phase of the Sabetha facility was built on the former site of Price, Kan. Additional expansions soon followed from 2008 to 2014 to meet growing business needs. The most recent project, completed in January of this year, expanded storage and opened up production space. Currently, an expansion to the panel building shop and office area is underway and targeted for completion this spring.
As with most entities, there are times of growth and prosperity and times that see little growth, KSi has seen its share of both over the past 20 years.
“The time from about 2004-2013 was massive growth for us. From about 2015-2020, there was a five-year gap where it was a little slower for us; we were able to be sustainable but we weren’t growing at the pace that we had been. We also went through a time where we had some layoffs. In January of 2016, we had to lay some people off. Now, over the last two or three years we are on a little more of an uptake again,” Jason said.
Unique to the industry
KSi is competitive because they are able to offer many sizes of conveyors, customized seed treating equipment, automation solutions and have more recently moved into software development, which is unique for equipment manufacturers. They offer a subscription- based service — EDGE PARTNERS — that keeps their customers up-to-date on the software with automatic updates, phone support and access to integration services.
“Conveyors are a strong part of who we are and that’s never going to change, but we are not just providing steel, we are providing the solutions behind it as well,” Jason said.
KSi has equipment solutions that range from basic to very advanced solutions that integrate with cloud data solutions, including integration with a customer’s billing software. The automation is more than just turning equipment on and off, their team of engineers are controls equipment developers and software developers, as well.
“When we develop automation solutions or web solutions it’s not strictly to just control equipment, it’s to be able to help our customers solve their business needs beyond just the KSi equipment,” Jason said.
KSi believes in listening to their customers, being innovative and always being prepared for when opportunities come up, such as with the way peanuts are now being treated in the industry.
“Using a specialized mixing conveyor design, we are treating peanuts in a way that has never been done in that industry, and now there is an opportunity for us to build equipment locally for the peanut industry. They trust us for our knowledge and ability to provide them equipment that will safely handle their fragile product,” Paul said. “Our first system treated 30 million pounds of peanuts our first season.”
In tune with their mission statement, “…to glorify God in all we do by establishing and maintaining relationships that are built on trust, transparency, and servant leadership,” KSi believes in supporting the local communities that they are a part of.
“Both Cissna Park and Sabetha are small communities, so we try to be involved in supporting our local communities through specific events that KSi can be a part of, or supporting different causes related to the school or the community,” Jason said.
In Sabetha, KSi supports projects within the Greater Sabetha Community Foundation and the STEP Foundation. They are also currently working with other non-profit organizations, such as a program to provide children with Bible-based character education. KSi continues to offer trailers and employees to help with the annual city-wide cleanup, as well as other opportunities and community events.
An indirect way that KSi helps the community is through their employees.
“One of the primary ways that we try to give back is through our employees,” Jason said. “We have what we call ‘KSi Gives Back.’ Basically, in addition to their PTO and holiday pay, an employee has 40 hours a year to use towards a charitable cause that could look a number of different ways — week long work team, local rebuilding project, tornado cleanup — we try to be pretty flexible in letting them use it in whatever ways they see best.”
The philosophy of “KSi Gives Back” allows employees the opportunity to give back and make an impact as individuals.
“There is a place for corporate giving and we try to do that, but we also don’t want corporate giving to replace the individual contribution that we can do, whether it’s the ownership or the employees,” Jason said. “KSi, as a corporation, will do some charitable events, but we also want to empower and encourage individual giving and charity, whether it’s time or money. We feel like there is something to the individual aspect of giving.”