Over 350 people attended the Makita 100 years of Innovation celebratory event in Los Angeles. We were lucky enough to be one of three media people invited to experience it (the others were our friends David Frane of Tools of the Trade and Tom Hammel with Contractor Supply). The event commemorated the Makita 100 year anniversary (a feat for any company, let alone one that is Japanese-based and operating in a complex worldwide capacity). A lot was discussed, and new tools were introduced to attendees, but the main point of the event was to celebrate what Makita has accomplished in the last 10 decades.
A Brief History of Makita
Believe it or not, Makita started in 1915 as an electric motor company, making and repairing electric motors for other manufacturers to use. In 1935 they began exporting these motors, expanding their business to other countries. By 1958 everything changed when Makita released their first power tool, the portable power planer. It was long until that tool was followed by a portable groove cutter, an electric circular saw, and an electric drill in 1962. During this time they really focused on the areas of motor consolidation and improvement. It wasn’t long before more power tools joined the lineup, and Makita went from selling motors to selling tools. To break into the market, they began offering a 3-day repair turnaround to up the ante and win pro users to the brand.
Fast forward to 1978 and Makita put out their first cordless tools, all of which ran on the same 7.2V NiCd batteries. By 1987 they had 15 different tools on that battery platform. A 9.6V line soon followed (as did Makita USA), and the company began manufacturing and assembling tools in Buford, GA in 1985. By 1989 Makita was up to $800 million in sales.
In 1995 they set a long term goal of strengthening their company further and moved a lot of manufacturing over to China, while still keeping the Okazaki Japan plant as their flagship manufacturing facility. 2004 saw the company’s first brushless motor (for fastening tools used in the defense and aerospace industries)—a move that quickly migrated to consumer tools.
Fast forward to 2005, and you see the launch of their lithium-ion products—and the rest is, literally, history. In 2015 Makita released their 100th 18V tool.
The Makita 100 Year Anniversary Event
Having been accustomed to media events which often involve some fun activities amidst a showcase of new tools, this Makita 100 Year Anniversary was a bit different. Makita was literally saying “thank you” to their dealers and distributors for helping them achieve success throughout the years. There weren’t a lot of presentations—just a lot of freedom, food, and fun at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Oh, and everyone who came got a free pair of Oakley sunglasses to protect their eyes in the bright California sun.
Of course, there were some moments for Makita to toot their collective horns (and why not, they were generously picking up the tab for most of the dealers present). The first evening featured a welcome presentation as well as a live band. We sat outside and ate while, nearby, a Makita booth showed off all the latest gas powered, electric, and cordless tools.
Fun and Activities
As I mentioned, this event was about saying “thanks” and so there was golf, kayaking, paddle boarding, and other activities (like hanging out at the spa—which I couldn’t bring myself to do at a manufacturer event…after all, there were power tools present!).
The second evening, however, was the main event. It was there that we got to meet the current top people at Makita, hear about some of their history (noted above), and enjoy some entertainment. We performed an official group Japanese saki ceremony and a “cracking of the barrels” with the leadership of Makita corporation. That was followed by a toast out of authentic wooden Makita boxes with Shiro Hori, president of Makita.
Editor’s Note: The Sake barrel ceremony, or Kagami-biraki, is a ceremony performed at celebratory events in which the lid of the sake barrel is broken open by a wooden mallet and the sake is served to everyone present.
During the evening many representatives of Makita spoke, such as the entertaining Hiroshi Tsujimura, president of Makita USA. My favorite, however, would have to be Muni Goto, director of Makita, who at one point casually let it slip that Makita batteries are going “to 6 Ah and beyond” as also mentioned using smartphones to control RPMs and other aspects of their tools. If that’s not a fun peak at the potential future roadmap for Makita then I don’t know what is!
We also got to take a photo with the top executives of Makita. Here I am standing next to the president of Makita USA, Hiroshi Tsujimura.
Following the dinner we were given a real treat—a live concert with Martina McBride!
Tools, Tools, and More New Tools
Of course, this event really hit the spot for me when I got to see all of Makita’s new tools on display—including several that I can’t talk about but which should hit the market by 2016. We’ve already covered the Makita GA5042C 5 in. Angle Grinder and new Makita 12V Tools with slide pack batteries, but there’s a lot more we’ll release over the next couple weeks. Look for us to review some of their 4-cycle outdoor power equipment and also some concrete tools as well.
This was a great event, and we were excited to get to hang out and see a little bit more about where Makita came from, and where it’s going. We can’t wait to tell you a little bit more about what’s next—it’s pretty exciting.