North Dakota Start-Up Automates Construction Industry

Tom Kading, Wes Henry, and Aaron McWilliams joined together in 2017 to co-found Construction Automation. The team is preparing for the first product launch called AutoSaw. “Tom Kading had the idea for an automated saw that could load, measure, and cut a board… We joined together around this innovation and formed Construction Automation,” explained McWilliams.

Team of Entrepreneurs

All three co-founders of Construction Automation have an entrepreneurial background. Tom Kading’s past includes business and start-ups in the agriculture and real estate industries. As a co-founder of ConnectBooster and TrueIT, Wes Henry adds a technology background to the start-up team. Then, Aaron McWilliams offers a background in self-taught manufacturing as the creator of Spiral Light Candle Corp and its factory automation. “All three of our backgrounds help in creating AutoSaw… Tom brings real estate experience, Wes brings software knowledge, and I enjoy building machines for automating processes,” said McWilliams.

The AutoSaw

The beginnings of AutoSaw took place after a downturn in McWilliams’ candle business as a result of struggling retailers. “We had established an e-commerce platform for our candles… However, it is difficult to sell fragrance related items over the internet,” explained McWilliams. Spiral Light closed its doors in 2016, and McWilliams began to look around the old family farmstead for his next venture. After selling the family tractor and converting the old barn into a functioning dog kennel, McWilliams received a phone call from Tom Kading.

Tom and Aaron spent 2016 serving in the North Dakota Legislature, and in early 2017, Tom called to share an idea for an automated saw. “I told Tom that the AutoSaw was a better idea that I was pursuing… We added Wes Henry to the team and have been on the journey since then to create AutoSaw,” explained McWilliams. The process for AutoSaw began with a market research survey to determine the viability of the product in the marketplace. An $80 million domestic market was determined which paved the way for a prototype to be built.

The excitement of an $80 million market waned as the team found out that it would cost $150,000 to build a prototype. With investors wanting to see a working product, the team pooled together resources and built a prototype in McWilliams’ garage for $6,000. “I built machines for the candle factory, so building this machine was a welcomed challenge,” explained McWilliams. At 1 Million Cups, the AutoSaw will be on display as it loads, measures, and cuts pieces of wood.

Currently, the Construction Automation team is focused on two endeavors, the AutoSaw product and the development of consultation services called Valley Venture Builders. “We found success working as a team of entrepreneurs, and we want to offer that knowledge and experience at an affordable cost for other entrepreneurs,” said McWilliams. The AutoSaw will be sold at $15,000 per unit, which contractors and other construction companies can afford.

Learn more from Aaron McWilliams and Construction Automation as he speaks at 1 Million Cups Fargo on Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 at 9:15 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.

Brent McNeal