Mar 14, 2016
John Renouard, Founder and President of A Better Drill, Inc., manufactures a single product: a human-powered, portable drill designed specifically to drill for clean water in a Third World environment, at a fraction of the cost of traditional well-drilling.
Based in South Jordan, Utah, A Better Drill currently manufactures its Village Drill in Utah as well as Kenya, though the scope of the company reaches far beyond those borders.
“I moved my family to South Jordan, Utah from the state of Washington in July, 2007. In Washington, my wife and I were the owners of nine Century 21 franchises, as well as a mortgage company. In Utah, we retained our online mortgage company.”
But everything changed when Renouard visited Kenya in 2010.
“I came home from that trip consumed with the need to do something to help fight the crushing poverty I saw there. That is when the idea and the design for the Village Drill came to me, actually waking me up one night out of a sound sleep.”
Renouard developed the drill with the assistance of some college engineering students from Brigham Young University and then applied for the patent, which is currently pending.
“I initially wanted to manufacture the Village Drill in Africa, but I was concerned whether or not we could create a quality product there. I found that in Kenya, most of the infrastructure and raw materials were available. But we still send perhaps a dozen of the lighter, more technical pieces to Kenya from four or five suppliers here in the U.S. We look at our shipping costs and try to determine where it is most cost-effective to manufacture our drills. Right now, we build perhaps 2/3 of our drills in Kenya, and 1/3 here. But one interesting by-product of the recent drop in oil prices is that our shipping costs have been falling. If that continues, we may end up manufacturing more and more of our drills in Utah.”
Through this entire process, Renouard has felt that he has been carving, or perhaps drilling, a whole new path for the drill industry.
“One of the most difficult aspects of developing this company from scratch has been the lack of mentorship or examples for us to follow,” Renouard says. “When I was in the real estate market, I knew of many successful real estate companies that I could watch and learn from. Since we developed the Village Drill from scratch, I have needed to learn many things through trial and error, and there weren’t really any companies to whom we could look for mentorship.“
“Additionally, we are working in a Third World environment, which creates tremendous challenges for us, especially from an infrastructure and educational standpoint. For example, initially we created a 148-page manual that we hoped to use to teach people how to properly utilize the Village Drill to create sustainable, clean water sources. Then we discovered that many of the people we were training couldn’t read well enough to interpret the manual, so we have had to move to more ‘visual’ training methods. And we continue to change the design of our drill to make it more robust and easier to use in a Third World environment, where repair and maintenance are difficult, and replacement parts are non-existent. Simplicity has become high on our list – fewer moving parts, improved ease of use, and less required maintenance.”
Rachelle Knight Child writes for CompanyWeek Utah and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.