K&R Performance Engineering - An In Depth Look
Early this spring I made time to take the trip south a couple hours from Nashville to Cleveland, Tennessee which was established in 1836 and lies close to Chattanooga, TN. and named after Colonel Benjamin Cleveland, a hero of the American Revolution. Cleveland, Tennessee is also home of K&R Performance and the Rodden Family.
Kevin Rodden is a long time bracket racer and along with his wife Betty are well known racers throughout the Mid South. If you stay up late enough to watch the late rounds of any given Big Bucks race through out the Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia area you'd be sure to see Kevin in his all so familiar silver Vega.
Employee picture from left to right: Junior Buckner (assembly), Daniel Merriman (assemby), Bradley Davis (assembly, high school student & family relative), Ed Rodden (chief design engineer), Kevin Rodden (owner/tech support & many other hats), wife Betty Rodden (shipping & assembly), son Eric Rodden (orders & tech support & assembly) and his Eric's fiancée La-Rae Trentham (chief assembly & apprentice electrical engineer - 9 yrs plus with K&R)
Kevin Rodden told me they learned a long time ago that to be able to control quality and provide the customer service they felt was needed, it was necessary to keep as much in-house as possible and that's how it continues today.
K&R Performance Engineering is most well known for their Pro-Cube delay box, shown here with Z-Plus, a push to release function for your transbrake button.
One of the very first things I notice when I walked into their facility was the cleanliness of the facility and this cool machine! It had some fancy name but ultimately it was an automated assembly line that solders terminals to the circuit boards. Very impressive.
Kevin's brother Ed who is the Head Electrical Engineer at K&R explained the process and how the tried and true machine provides a big part of their capable production.
Shown below are circuit boards for products being loaded with components and readied for soldering and assembly.
As mentioned before K&R does as much in house as possible including machining out their own switch plates and taking them to a finished product. Kevin's wife Betty Rodden is Chief Letterer, hand painting the engraved lettering of each plate that goes out the door.
As proud as K&R is of their products, I got the feeling Kevin is equally proud of the paint finish they provide on their products. For many years Kevin used the talent he developed while a young man putting himself through college, personally spraying all the box covers and switch panel bezels in the in-house paint booth. He has finally relinquished most of that work by training his personnel to take over that tedious task. To achieve the high quality finish demanded, it requires a multi-step process of sanding, cleaning, epoxy primer, base-coat, and a durable urethane clearcoat.
Once the individual items are painted in batches, the items have the lettering stenciled on them and re-hung to dry before going to final assembly.
When Kevin Rodden sought the help of his brother Ed Rodden in the early 90's to construct their first delay box, one of the goals was to keep it small. This has continued to be their focus nearly 30 years later. Ed said, "Kevin keeps coming up with additional features and I focus on new technology and the ability to keep them in our well known Pro-Cube box".
High Tech and organization can be found everywhere at K&R, even at Ed's research desk, or as Kevin put it, "The place where all the magic happens". The photo to the right shows stock of Pro-Cube box covers ready for assembly.
Above is one of K&R latest products, a switch panel for Street Strip Cars allowing users who are familiar with K&R products to use the same high quality, reliable products in cars that need to have the functionality to meet rules requirements like Drag Week, etc.
K&R Performance not only makes Delay Boxes, Switch Panels and Digital Dial In Boards, but also Onboard Air Compressors for race cars. Originally designed by the Rodden's close friend the "late" Steve Woody who recently passed away unexpectedly this past November. Kevin was very adamant to give credit to his close friend Steve for his design. "Steve chose very high quality components for this product and we just inherited it. We're proud to continue offering them." said Kevin.
When I made that 2 hour trip to Cleveland, TN this spring I had a feeling about what I'd see. I've been promising to make the trip for about 5 years now. Shame on me. I've been missing out on what I thought I knew. I had no clue. What I found was a man who loves racing, a strong work ethic, practicality and a amazing family that supports the business he founded along with his brother Ed nearly 30 years ago.
Those of you who know Kevin, know he originally comes across quiet, but get him talking about his race cars like the Ford shown above, or business, or racing, or a challenge to invent or improve a process in his business and it's on! He loves what he does and it shows.
K&R Performance is truly a high quality family run business with roots deep in our industry. I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did learning more about the Rodden family and K&R.
Here is a previous article written by the late Danny Sons in 2004 on K&R Performance you may also enjoy. 2004 Article
You can also visit their website for products and information at KRPerformance.com