Great American Success Story!
In the late 1950’s, Howard Knaack would sometimes interrupt his milk route deliveries for Cary Dairy to have breakfast with two friends. These friends needed a reliable source for "ready-made" jobsite boxes. One morning, they decided it was time to talk Howard into a business opportunity in the sheet metal fabrication business in order to supply their construction supply house with the jobsite boxes they needed. Together they formed Knaack LLC. In the fall of 1960, Howard Knaack began building steel KNAACK® jobsite storage tool boxes in a small, one-room shop in Crystal Lake, Illinois, USA. Mr. Knaack's main outlet for these boxes was a tool supply distributor owned by his partners named Brock Tool Company.
Knaack LLC was the first to offer national distribution of jobsite storage boxes in Chicago, Detroit, Hammond, Cleveland, Denver and Washington D.C. By 1968 Mr. Knaack moved the company to a 16,000 sq. ft. building in the current location, still in Crystal Lake.
Throughout the 1960’s, Howard was looking to expand his product offerings to the contractor trade and recognized the need for a high-quality, truck tool box. In 1968, Knaack LLC purchased the rights to build WEATHER GUARD® Truck Equipment, a truck tool box line consisting of approximately 10 different models, from a sheet metal contractor in St. Louis, MO. In 1973, Knaack LLC redesigned its entire tool box line with features needed by the contractor markets it served. Many of these innovations soon became the standard in the industry and were eventually copied by other tool box manufacturers over the years.
In 1981, the plant added a powder-coat system for WEATHER GUARD® Truck Equipment and became one of the first in its industry to offer the benefits of ARMOR-TUF® Powder Coat Paint. Also in the early '80s, gas pistons were added to WEATHER GUARD® Truck Equipment, making them easier to open/close and safer to use than previous versions or competitors' models. WEATHER GUARD also introduced truck cab protectors and ladder racks, as well as organizational storage solutions, such as PACK RAT® Drawer Units.
In 1984, WEATHER GUARD® further expanded into Van Storage Equipment, offering a complete line of bulkheads, shelving, drawer units, van ladder racks and the BED RAT® Sliding Platform. In 2010, all KNAACK® Jobsite Storage Equipment also switched to powder coat paint which improved corrosion resistance 5x over baked enamel paint.
To drive innovation and continue to lead the market, Knaack LLC has made significant investments in automation machinery and equipment, and increased capability of our human resources, improving plant safety, and making the plant more environmentally friendly. As a division of Emerson Professional Tools (NYSE:EMR) based in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, Knaack LLC benefits from state-of-the-art Emerson manufacturing techniques and strong supplier relationships. To leverage production capabilities, Knaack LLC strives to achieve lean manufacturing standards by utilizing such processes as Six Sigma, Kaizen Champions and Lean Kaizen Blitzes. Recently Knaack LLC made significant improvements in manufacturing automation by investing in upgraded fabrication machinery and a completely renovated paint line. These new machines and systems are capable of making accurate, quality parts in both long and short production runs, with the ability to switch between designs being manufactured at the push of a button, allowing Knaack LLC to be extremely flexible in our manufacturing processes. Our current production line is truly state-of-the-art to produce the finest jobsite and tool storage equipment available.
How does Knaack LLC support the environment? Within the last 24 months, Knaack LLC switched 425 tons of paper printing to Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Certified paper, recycled over 850 tons of metal scrap, increased recycled content in corrugated packaging to 35%, reduced natural gas consumption 8%, reduced electricity consumption 15% by using light sensors and switching to high-efficiency florescent bulbs, improved the quality of discharge water by reducing chloride levels 30% and total dissolved solids 20%, and reduced air emissions 50% by switching to powder-coat paint process.
Over the past 50 years, Knaack LLC’s facility has grown from its modest start in a 2,000 sq. ft. shop to its first 16,000 foot facility at 420 E. Terra Cotta Ave., and now to its current 400,000 + sq. ft. plant. Most of Knaack LLC’s products are “Made in America,” employs over 200 factory workers, and supports a variety of local charities, including Habitat for Humanity, United Way and others.
Knaack LLC has achieved strong growth and industry leadership, and has not stopped introducing new products, like the new WEATHER GUARD® Hi-Side Truck Boxes, the new WEATHER GUARD® Low-Profile Steel Boxes, the new WEATHER GUARD® Van Solutions for the Nissan NV and Ford Transit Connect, and the Limited Edition KNAACK® Model 50 Jobsite Storage Chest featuring the new WATCHMAN® 5 Lock System.
As it looks to the next 50+ years, Knaack LLC envisions continuous improvement in all areas of the business, as well as an aggressive schedule of new product introductions that are driven by end-user research to help contractors keep their tools safe, protect them from the weather, and keep equipment organized for optimal productivity on the job. Knaack LLC thanks its end users for their patronage and invites end users to share their product testimonials on Facebook.