It’s always a fun time when we are flown to a different city and treated to a fun experience of hands-on and overviews of a company’s latest products. In the case of Milwaukee Tools, this was all but certain to be filled with plenty of announcements about new products, advancements in their cordless lines and possible even a few surprises. As it turns out, there are a ton of new tools, and we brief several of them here, with more info and pics to follow.
Our trip was largely uneventful and we arrived in Milwaukee unscathed, having made it through another intensely pleasant experience with the government bureaucracy that is the TSA (may their lines grow ever longer and their black light drivers license flashlights grow ever dim). After our arrival we were taken by limousine to the historic Pfister hotel in downtown Milwaukee where we put up our luggage and had some time to relax and get a good nights rest before the following day’s activities.
Introduction by Steven Richman, President
Steven began our day with an overview of the international economic outlook for Milwaukee Tools. In a nutshell, Canada is booming, and residential in the U.S. is down as we all know and are experiencing together. He was pleased, however, with the many “pockets of successes”, including locations like New York and Washington D.C., which seem to be rebounding – even in this economic climate.
When you have positive signs amidst a time of question marks, you basically have two choices: 1) aggressively attack the problem by getting more efficient and cutting back; or 2) drive productivity through providing solutions and innovation, and thus get people to buy more products that in turn help them do their work more efficiently. Milwaukee is decidedly and purposefully taking the second route.
We then sent a little time talking about the heritage of the company. Some of this was familiar from last year, but it covered the company’s industrial roots in the 20’s and 30’s, to their construction innovation in the 40’s & 50’s, to the period of time they refer to as “incremental innovation, which lasted from the 60’s through the 90’s. It sees that Milwaukee is done allocating that period of time to gradual product changes and is now fully committing to “disruptive innovation” where they seek out new product solutions and shake up the industry. They are working on accessories that last longer, developing more durable test & measurement products, and creating hand tools that solve problems users didn’t even recognize they had.
It was only a few weeks ago that someone we were talking to made fun of the fact that Milwaukee had so many tools in their 12V line that it was only a matter of time before they released the M12 toaster oven. While it’s true that Milwaukee has more 12V tools than any other manufacturer we are aware of, they are focused on their efforts. In particular, they have four core markets: electricians, remodelers, air mechanical & plumbers. They also consider woodworkers & automotive technologies to be important (and though not “core”, they try to fit products to them whenever possible.) These core trades then receive products from Milwaukee’s four primary divisions: tools, hand tools, accessories, and test & measurement.
Product Development Process
Milwaukee begins each new product with a consideration of the end user. The end user drives the three core areas or product development: industrial design, rapid prototype, and advanced engineering & concept development. This translates into “Come up with a design, drive it, go to market with teams, get feedback, and then modify as needed”. This entire cycle is made possible because of Milwaukee’s ability to rapidly prototype tools. We saw this last year on our facilities tour and it is very impressive.
Milwaukee has chosen to invest in the training and understanding of their core users rather than participate in “stadium advertising” or other marketing efforts. It’s not as sexy as NASCAR, but it’s likely the reason they have so many cordless tools across so many different markets. Among other industry considerations, they were awarded the 2010 NECA Industry Partner Award, are a Platinum Partner of NJATC, are a SMACNA Silver Level Partner, and PHCC Silver Partner.
Cordless Products Overview
Up next was Paul Fry – Director of Marketing, Cordless Products. We already knew about the M12 and M18 lines, but he also introduced us to the new M28 line of tools. In his words, M28 is about “cutting the cord”. These are tools designed to simply work and without caveats or apologies. According to Paul, the company is the #1 selling high voltage platform in the market, and the fastest growing 18V segment (globally). As we mentioned earlier, they clearly have the biggest 12V product line. In 2009 the company launched 25 new cordless tools and were first to market with PVC & PEX shear. The company is also expanding their test & measurement products and have already deployed several new tools (including an M12 Cordless Fork Meter) plus an update that allows NIST certification of their applicable measurement tools.
M28 New and Improved
Milwaukee’s new M28 line is 100% backwards compatible with V28, so it offers some excellent new features while not taking away from the value of their existing tools. The biggest improvements involve the changes which allow the battery to interact more with the tool, to deliver the appropriate power and monitor use patterns to provide greater protection. This includes, among other things, Milwaukee’s DPM (digital power management) system. The M28 batteries also offer increased run-time & cycle life and carry a full 3-year replacement warranty.
For tools, the new platform debuted with a brand new 0726-22 M28 Hammer Drill Driver. This tool has 750 in-lbs of torque, features a 1/2-inch all-metal single-sleeve ratcheting chuck with carbide jaws, and up to twice the run-time of Milwaukee’s 18V tools. It’s just 9-1/2″ in length and has two speeds (0-600 and 0-1800).
For those who don’t already know, Uponor is a leading innovative supplier of PEX-a systems for plumbing, radiant floor heating, cooling, and fire safety (coming soon to a residential code near you). Their products are sold in 100 countries and they have over 12 billion feet of PEX installed worldwide. In fact, Uponor manufactures about 1/3 of all PEX tubing sold in North America. Given that and the fact that they have around 3300 employees globally, you can see why Milwaukee might want to partner with them to bring innovative M12 rodents into the plumbing market.
M12 ProPEX Expansion Tools
Milwaukee, through this partnership, introduced two tools. The first is the 2432-22 M12 ProPEX Expansion Tool. This tool has an auto rotating head and a quick cam mechanism. Using this tool, a single pull actuation installs ProPEX up to 4x faster than with traditional hand tools. Additionally, its compact size and right-angle construction means that getting into tight spaces is no longer a problem.
The 2632-22 M18 ProPEX Expansion Tool is even faster than the M12 model and has a magnesium frame and LED worklight with twilight (auto-off). It is backwards and forwards compatible with quick change heads. The primary advantage of this tool over the M12 model is that it can handle bigger diameter pipe, and it also gives the user an even faster experience.
M12 Heated Jacket
There were several other M12 products we were introduced to that we’ll cover in more detail separately, but at least mention here. First was the M12 Heated Jacket. This thing runs off a conveniently placed M12 battery and seems like the ultimate solution for those working outside in colder climates. It is sold with ether a battery and charger kit, or just the jacket (for those who already have a bunch of M12 batteries). The jacket operates by simply holding down a button on the left breast. After that the jacket can be set to low, medium, or high and the LED backlit logo on the front glows accordingly. Red for High, Orange for Medium, and Blue for Low. It’s actually very Star Trek – and that’s a compliment.
M12 Palm Nailer
The next thing we were introduced to was an M12 Palm Nailer. No joke, this thing could drop 12d nails into a 4×4 without breaking a sweat. In fact, it did it in under 2 seconds, leaving nothing standing up. It’s the perfect solution for those looking to ditch their hoses and compressors for a quick nail-pounding, and it absolutely makes those cordless hammers pale in comparison. The M12 Palm Nailer includes an LED light as well as an integrated 4-LED battery indicator. As you’d expect, this tool was LOUD, but we couldn’t help but be impressed by just how powerful it was. After using it, I felt compelled to want to take one and build an entire house with it… just because. It was surprisingly nimble, though it is certainly more bulky than a traditional palm nailer. The activation is through a side-mounted button and the tip is magnetic, so nails can simply be loaded in and pounded into place without having to hold them.
M12 Universal Multi-Tool
We later got introduced to one of our favorite tools of the evening, the Milwaukee M12 Universal Multi-tool. This tool will have an extended run time and comes with, surprise, a universal accessory adapter. That’s right, it can handle ALL of the competition’s accessories, including Fein, Bosch, Dremel, Craftsman, Ridgid, and Rockwell among others. We have to admit, the thought of a longer-running multi-tool that can take all of the available accessories is a compelling concept. It is shown here with the M12 XC battery, but will ship with two M12 standard batteries and will also be available as a tool-only model to cater to those users who already have plenty of M12 batteries and a charger. We can’t wait to give this tool a closer look.
M12 Hammer Drill Driver
The final tool we’ll mention here, though there are more we’ll address in later articles, is Milwaukee’s M12 Hammer Drill Driver. This thing provides all the power needed to drill and drive 5/16-inch Tapcons into cinderblock – and we tested it out personally. This is going to make a lot of maintenance workers very happy indeed.
There’s more to tell – and we will – but for now we had to top off the evening with a tour through the Harley Davidson Museum and then dinner!