The headlines are filled with stories of American tech companies “disrupting” the markets and industries they serve. But there are other American success stories out there as well – “traditional” companies that are dramatically remaking themselves and carving a whole new second life in the digital age.
Milwaukee Tool is one such company.
Founded in 1918 thanks to close ties to Henry Ford, the company had provided the tools that powered the United States through the Great Depression, World War II, and the explosive economic growth that followed. But by the turn of the 21st century, Milwaukee Tool was largely resting on those laurels.
According to CEO Steve Richman, the company had a reputation as a reliable producer of quality tools. But it was stagnant – it had invested almost nothing in exploring new technology or markets. And its tools, while dependable and well-made, were decidedly old-school. Meanwhile, the company’s competitors were spearheading new, compact, battery-powered tool technology – products Milwaukee had no answer for. In short, the company was slowly dying. So Richman and his team decided to completely remake Milwaukee Tool.
This was no mere facelift. Richman and his staff began investing in people, facilities and – most of all – technology. To begin with, the company immediately began engaging with its customers in meaningful ways while designing a new generation of light, rechargeable tools. As time went on, the company brought all of its battery and component technology in-house, as opposed to designing components around off-the-shelf components. This gave Milwaukee Tool greater control over its entire product line and allowed its engineers to take the adaptability and modular capability of its products to an unprecedented level.
Today, it’s safe to say Milwaukee Tool’s reinvention of the company has been a certified success. The company is expanding globally, adding employees and new facilities as quickly as possible. Its line of M12 and M18 rechargeable tools, accessories and products is an unqualified success. And now the company is expanding into new markets.
In early June, Milwaukee Tool hosted its annual New Products Symposium in Brookfield, Wisconsin, to showcase new products and new markets.
A Major Move Into Transportation Maintenance
One of the new markets is transportation maintenance – and the company isn’t simply focused on automotive and light truck repairs.
For instance, the new M18 Fuel 1/2-inch Anvil Controlled High Torque Impact Wrench is a rechargeable torque impact wrench that helps shops stay safer by getting pneumatic hose lines off the floor while increasing mobility and flexibility for technicians. The new impact wrench delivers the fastening control and breakaway power that professional tire technicians demand without pneumatic hoses, compressors, or torque sticks. The impact wrench offers multiple fastening torque control modes designed for sedans, light trucks and box trucks. Moreover, according to product manager Zach Welsh, the wrench’s 1,100 foot-pounds of torque means it can tackle even heavy-duty wheel maintenance jobs on semi-trucks and trailers.
Another new line of interest to truck shops is the The M12 Fuel family of Extended Reach Ratchets. These ratchets have a slim profile and an extended neck that gives users longer reach in tight spaces while still providing best-in-class torque, according to the company, and the durability required for use in heavy-duty maintenance shops.
Another new transportation maintenance tool is the M12 Fuel Right Angle Die Grinder. Welsh said the tool is the first cordless right angle die grinder to deliver the size and performance professional mechanics demand. It offers more power than a standard 0.25 HP pneumatic die grinder, as well as best-in-class size to help fit in tight places, he said. A 4-Mode RPM control and responsive variable speed trigger allow control when getting onto hard-to-reach nuts and bolts and extracting them.
Oftentimes, some of the most interesting new ideas that come along are also come of the simplest. As anyone who has worked in a maintenance shop can attest, scrambling and crawling around chasing dropped, wayward sockets as they merrily roll their way into the most inconvenient hiding places possible is a serious safety issue, productivity killer and annoying beyond words. Welsh said Milwaukee’s new 1/2-inch-drive Ratchet & Socket sets were designed from the ground up to alleviate this issue, featuring a flattened base design that is anti-roll should the socket be dropped. The flattened, squared-off design also allows a technician to easily get a wrench onto the socket if extra torque is needed to remove a stuck or rusty bolt. The ratchet and socket kits come with a removable inner tray. All of these tools are designed for heavier-duty applications.