We recently had a whirlwind visit to DeWalt to see their manufacturing facility in Charlotte, North Carolina. Of course, all good media events (are you other manufacturers listening?) begin with a bit of fun and festivity. For that, DeWalt took us to the NASCAR Hall of Fame where we got to hang out in the Great Hall with the pit crew from the DeWalt #20 car and—even more impressive—Matt Kenseth himself, who was gracious enough to spend some time with us. This was possibly the best DeWalt media event they’ve had yet—and it may have had the most tools as well!
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is awesome, and it has enough memorabilia and impressive exhibits that it might just make you a fan, assuming you aren’t one already.
A highlight of that first evening had to be the pit crew for the #20 car showing us how to jack up a car and change a couple of tires. I got to change a NASCAR tire with none other than Matt Kenneth himself. While we didn’t beat the 11 second record, we still did a pretty good job!
Our friend Rob Robillard of AConcordCarpenter also got into the action:
The evening capped out with some time in the NASCAR racing simulators—an experience that let me know it’s a lot harder to drive these 700+ horsepower cars than I initially thought.
New DeWalt Tools at the Charlotte Manufacturing Facility
Day two began at the DeWalt Charlotte, North Carolina Manufacturing plant. In what can only be described as the fastest PowerPoint presentation we’ve ever been given (this is a good thing) we were quickly introduced to some basic details of the plant—internally known as “Project Eagle” or Eagle I. The plant primarily manufactures cordless brushed and premium brushless products. There are actually seven Dewalt manufacturing centers (“Eagle II”, for example, is in Greenfield, Indiana) which make anything from hand tools to power tools, components, and accessories.
The Charlotte manufacturing plant is actually a converted Bostitch facility that has 1.2 million square feet of total space. About 60,000 sq. ft. of that is used for manufacturing, with the rest allocated mostly to distribution and parts. Back in September of 2013, DeWalt took what was essentially empty distribution space and, in less than 6 months, converted it into the first production facility with product coming off the line. They gradually increased output line by line until they reached their extended goals for the space.
We’ll cover more of the manufacturing facility in our DeWalt North Carolina Manufacturing Facility article, but this place was impressive and they get a lot of product made—all with America workers. In fact, 350 jobs were created in just this location alone.
So far, DeWalt has manufactured about 4 million tools with 2 million motors also made in this facility. Last year over 500 customers toured the facility. After this brief intro, our tool and facility tour began.
DeWalt Rotary Hammers, Dust Collection, and Grinders
Sean Kelly took us through the new DeWalt rotary hammers, dust collection and grinders. The first product caught us off guard, and looks to be a great new introduction for DeWalt in the world of portable cordless dust collection.
The D25303DH slides right onto the DCH173 1″ SDS Brushless Rotary Hammer. We reviewed the DeWalt DCH213 20V rotary hammer a while back and it was an incredibly powerful tool that we loved to use. This looks like a serious contender with both greater capacity, and greater run-time. It also comes with a retractable utility hook and ships with 5 Ah battery pack.
DeWalt DWE4222N 4-1/2″ Angle Grinder with Tether
This new “brake grinder” comes with a nice tether connector but right in. This is a big deal for drop safety.
There is also a new guard on this grinder that is nice and thin and which adds stops to make it nearly impossible to cut on the wrong side of the wheel. It also gives the user the ability to close the guard down a lot further to serve as a sort of spark collector when cutting through metal.
DeWalt also announced the new DW6044 grinder which has an electronic clutch. In addition to the grinder, DeWalt also introduced a new line of XP ceramic cutting wheels, flap discs, and grinding wheels. These ceramic wheels offer longer life over comparable 3M wheels. We saw a live demo (note the video below), and the new DeWalt cutting wheel went through 5 cuts and still looked strong (with plenty of life) while the comparable 3M Cubitron II wheel made just 3 cuts before becoming so worn down as to be unusable. The pricing on these wheels is very similar, so the value potential for these new DeWalt ceramic cutting wheels is impressive.
Check out the new DeWalt XR Ceramic cutting wheel in action:
DeWalt Charlotte, NC Factory Tour
We next took a walk around the floor of their Eagle I Manufacturing facility. As mentioned above, our visit was confined to the 60,000+ square foot manufacturing space which was surrounded by plenty of distribution and supply storage. The American workers all looked happy, and it was fun to see the cell production systems all operating while we walked by and observed.
DeWalt makes both entry level brushed tools at this facility as well as some of their top of the line 20V lithium-ion brushless tools. They even assemble motors, with machines that automatically put on the windings, one after the other. The motors are then sent on for manual inspection before being forwarded for insertion into actual tools.
After this we saw the manufacturing phase where the tools are programmed, or flashed, by a computer that automatically loads the software and verifies it for accuracy.
After seeing all this, what better way to drive the point home than to have each member of the press build their own DeWalt XR hammer drill? We secured the transmission to the tool body, fastened the chassis and handle together, loaded and tested the flash ROM using an automated system, performed both hammer drill, torque, and clutch tests, and even packaged the tool into the case (complete with stickers and instruction manual). Each tool even had a custom sticker pre-made with our names on it so we could affix it to the back of the tool and let the world know it was made by us—right in the Charlotte, NC factory. It’s one thing to understand tool is made in America, but it’s an entirely new experience to go through the process (or at least part of it) yourself to experience what it’s like to put something like a cordless hammer drill together. DeWalt’s cell goal for the XR hammer drill was 62/hour for these tools (eventually they hoped to get that up to 120/hour). We probably didn’t help them meet their daily quota with our intervention!
DeWalt Bluetooth Battery Packs
We next got a look at the new DeWalt Bluetooth battery packs (20V) which deliver information on fuel levels, battery health temperature, and proximity. You can connect an unlimited number of batteries to the DeWalt Bluetooth battery app, and then connect to one at a time to check its status and/or condition. This will be interesting to follow to see how DeWalt plans to use the technology—and also to see how it is received in the field. We will be part of a beta test of the app software and will be writing up a separate report in the near future.
DeWalt Lighted Tool Bags, Lighted Tool Cases, and Protection
DeWalt has a whole new line of tool bags, tool backpacks, and tool cases that have integrated LED lights that run on AA batteries. They provide both interior and exterior light thanks to a handy swivel mount. The bags look well-built, and the lights make them all the more attractive for jobsite use.
DeWalt Carbon Fiber Level
You’d think a carbon fiber level would cost more, but DeWalt came up with a composite material solution that will retail for just $99. They showed us a 4 foot model that looked like something I wanted to add to my collection right away.
DeWalt Tough System Music Bluetooth Radio
The DeWalt Tough System Music Bluetooth radio is a $229 Bluetooth radio that stacks right in with your Tough System storage cases. It’s a whole new style and design we hadn’t sen before, but it makes a whole lot of sense—and solves the all-important issue of how to ensure you can easily take it from jobsite to jobsite. We especially liked how it looked when held in a classic 80’s pose by our friend Dave Campbell from Wood Magazine:
DeWalt Push Lock Pliers
Moving on to hand tools and mechanics tools, DeWalt showed us some new push lock pliers that were super easy to adjust one-handed and had extra capacity for getting around large pipes and collars. In fact, these pliers have 20% more clearance and opening range than comparable models from Irwin Vice Grips.
DeWalt MaxFit Screwdrivers
The DeWalt MaxFit screwdrivers include a magnetic sleeve that has an integrated rare earth magnet for retaining your fastener. If you don’t want magnetic bit retention you simply slide the collar down to the base of the screwdriver. Slide it back up, and it locks back in place when you’re ready to use the magnetic functions.
The new hammers from DeWalt are also different from former models and are made with one-piece steel construction. They’re also weighted specifically to make them well-balanced and easy to swing. They felt good in the hand. Shallow side nail pullers are included to get nail removal started before switching to the hammer claw for full removal. The new hammers are available in 16 oz., 20 oz., and 22 oz. sizes.
DeWalt Pneumatic Tools
After hand tools we got to see DeWalt’s new pneumatic nailers lineup. This included a full line of 11 new nailers that span everything from framing and roofing nailers, to finish and cordless models.
Our favorite was the new DeWalt DCN660 brushless 16 gauge finish nailer, which looks like a product that will save considerable time and energy for punch lists and small finish carpentry projects.
DeWalt 20V Cordless Miter Saw
Of course, we;d be remiss if we didn’t also include coverage of the new DeWalt 20V Cordless Miter Saw that will be hitting the streets any day now. We’re getting one in for review, but at first glance it looks like a very smart tool that’s well-designed, and sure to be a hit for small carpentry work. DeWalt claims it will perform 183 cuts on 2×4 on a single 4Ah battery (included in the kit version). Retail is $399 or $319 for the tool-only version.
Wrapping it Up
The 2015 DeWalt Media Event was a lot of fun. Great people, great facility, and a good time getting to know the people that make the tools. Plus, it was fantastic getting such an up close and personal look at a USA factory where American workers are being employed to assemble some pretty impressive tools. We hope this expands even further, and that this is just the beginning.