The Henry Ford Connection
The capacity for pioneering advances has been a feature of the Milwaukee brand from its opening years. It began with A.H. Petersen, a young manufacturer of tools and dies. At the end of the First World War, Model T car magnate Henry Ford, a regular customer, came to Petersen with a challenge: to produce a small, portable light 1/4-inch capacity power drill. The challenge was met in the form of the Hole-Shooter, the industry’s ﬁrst, lightweight, one-handed drill. Ford enthusiastically approved of the new Hole-Shooter. Previous models of two-handed drills were heavy and cumbersome tools that only the strongest mechanics could operate productively. The Hole-Shooter was game-changing for the industry.
When Petersen’s facility was hit by a disastrous ﬁre, his colleague A.F. Siebert bought the business with the aim of developing the HOLE-SHOOTER™ under his newly formed enterprise, the Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation. Milwaukee ﬁrst built a business in repairing tools, and through listening to the user, uncovered opportunities to provide new solutions to their customers. The company’s engineers constantly explored opportunities to provide innovative, electrical-powered solutions that would increase productivity for the user. Using the ﬁndings of both competitive analysis and their own user feedback, the HOLE-SHOOTER™ was made stronger and more durable, just what the market wanted in the automotive industry and beyond into the heavier metalworking industrial sector. Milwaukee also started to produce its own fractional horsepower motors to provide the ﬂexibility to customize its requirements, resulting in increased productivity, longer lifespan, less maintenance and better overload capacity. The high standards set for Milwaukee products soon enabled it to gain equipment speciﬁcation ratings from the US government, with machines such as electric sanders, portable hand grinders and a 3/4-inch electric hammer drill made to Naval speciﬁcations.
The Early Years
As Milwaukee’s reputation for innovation and top quality grew, other industry professionals began to turn to the company to improve their existing equipment. Welders wanted an easy-to-handle sander/grinder that could stand up to the heavy use it would need to endure. Milwaukee’s solution: a perfectly balanced, 15-pound single-horsepower model. In the post-war years, its sander/grinder line was given a new feature: a spring clutch to prevent backlash and smoother operation. The feature proved to be so popular that it was later added to the circular saw line. But Milwaukee designers did not stop at beneﬁcial features. Pioneering products were underway that were set to change the face of the power tool industry
The spotlight fell initially on the invention of the 1/2-inch right angle drill in 1949, the ﬁrst tool that would allow electricians and plumbers to carry out their work in conﬁned conditions. The next great step forward was the SAWZALL™ Recip Saw in 1951. This ground-breaking tool was the ﬁrst portable electric hacksaw, and employed a reciprocating mechanism with only three moving parts. It was durable enough to withstand the heavy workload it would need to carry out on a daily basis, and a range of SAWZALL™ Recip Saw Blades enabled the user to saw all types of materials adding to its versatility and market appeal.
As the home-construction industry in the United States ﬂourished, Milwaukee’s power tools became a key element in the building of American suburbia, becoming known for portability and the reliably of standing up to the most demanding working conditions. By the 1960s, Milwaukee had become a market leader. It expanded into new product lines and built up its manufacturing capabilities to keep up with demand.
A change of ownership in the 1970s to become part of Amstar and the rise of the consumer power tools market did nothing to change either its focus on the professional tools sector or its ground-breaking capacity. Professional tools sold at higher prices than consumer tools and were superior in quality and precision. Combined with Milwaukee’s leading position, an elite status grew up around the company’s products, establishing a loyal following from professional tradesmen.
In the 1970s Milwaukee introduced several new products including the Hole Hawg™, the first drill designed specifically for large hole drilling between studs and joists in residential construction. Milwaukee also introduced the first 1/2” professional pistol drill, the Magnum Hole-Shooter™, and the first U.S. made 4-1/2” angle grinder. In addition, Milwaukee continued to upgrade its original ground-breaking tools. The SUPER SAWZALL™ Recip Saw spent two years undergoing testing before being launched on the market and setting a new global standard for reciprocating saws with its fast-cutting action and greatly reduced vibration
Milwaukee also revolutionized the portable band saw category with the launch of a Deep Cut Band Saw in the early 1980s. With the same compact structure of their smaller unit, the new Deep Cut Band Saw offered a larger 4-3/4” x 4-3/4” cut capacity and faster cutting speeds while remaining light weight. The launch catapulted Milwaukee into a market leader position for the Band Saw category, and the Milwaukee Band Saw continues to be a product that tradesmen around the world regard as second to none.
With a commitment to quality and durability, Milwaukee became the first domestic power tool manufacturer with ISO certiﬁcation for all its facilities by the mid-1990s
Focus on the
The attention that Milwaukee took to seek out and respond to the heavy-duty needs of professionals was reciprocated with great brand loyalty on the part of its users. While consumer product ranges offered the prospect of mass sales, Milwaukee was determined to keep its premium brand standing by producing cutting-edge tools designed for professionals that reﬂected pride in workmanship, and delivering customer support to provide all-round service. The tools were sold mainly through authorized dealers, specialty suppliers, mail-order companies and online. The brand’s dedication to its professional group of users led it to become seen as more than a business operation but a true working partner, one dedicated to improving productivity and making a difference through the development of superior equipment while also taking user concerns over the physical impact of such power tools into consideration.
The slogan “Nothing But Heavy Duty” perfectly captured its commitment to durability. In 1999, in celebration of its 75th anniversary, Milwaukee produced limited edition SUPER SAWZALL™ Recip Saws, SAWZALL™ Plus Recip Saws and MAGNUM™ Drills as collector’s edition tools, which were received in overwhelming reception from its loyal segment of users.
By then, Milwaukee had changed owners again after Amstar was acquired by Sweden’s long-established industrial ﬁrm Atlas Copco in 1995. As part of the power tools division of the Swedish global corporation, Milwaukee gained openings to raise the brand’s presence outside its home market of North America.
Research and development continued to play a key part in the company’s success. Another crucial step forward was achieved in 2005, after many years in development and a multi-million dollar investment, when Milwaukee invented the technology that allowed them to be the first to use Lithium-Ion in power tools. The technology was introduced with the launch of Milwaukee’s revolutionary V28™ LITHIUM-ION battery technology and line of cordless tools. With filed patent applications that resulted in over 40 US & global patents surrounding the technology, Milwaukee became the talk of the professional construction industry and clear leader in Lithium-Ion power tool innovation.
Milwaukee’s V28™ battery was able to give tools twice the run-time and around 50 percent more power than an 18-volt traditional nickel-cadmium battery of the same weight. It also offered fade-free performance and opened up opportunities for more powerful corded tools to become cordless. The innovation led to a line of products, numerous awards from the industry and gained wide exposure and recognitions from leading industry councils and publications. It was soon realized that the significant power advantage provided with Lithium-Ion would give Milwaukee the opportunity to capitalize on the popular 18V market. Designed to enable retroﬁtting on existing Milwaukee 18-volt nickel cadmium tools, the new V18™ Lithium-Ion system was soon added to the Milwaukee cordless product offering.
In January 2007, Steven Richman became president of Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation and began its transformation into a company that is not only known for heavy-duty tools, but for “Disruptive Innovation”. Under his leadership, the company became laser-focused on its “Core User Group” once again, investing heavily in new product development and delivering innovative solutions to the plumbing, electrical, HVAC and MRO trades. “Disruptive innovation” became a mantra for the company, a term used to describe products that not only deliver new-to-world technology and unparalleled levels of performance and productivity to the user, but can even change the way their job will be done in the future.
Instead of making assumption about what the user needs, Milwaukee delivers this innovation by getting out on the jobsite, alongside professional tradesmen, to understand the challenges they think about from the time they wake up in the morning until the time they go to bed at night. This allows the company to deliver solutions that solve everyday problems, enhance safety and maximize productivity.
Milwaukee Tool also takes pride in its ability to bring this disruptive innovation to market in the fastest possible way. This is accomplished by eliminating organizational bureaucracy, relentlessly focusing on the needs of its core users and making sure all of the necessary ingredients for product development are internal. With everything from rapid prototyping and industrial design, to front end engineering and development being done in parallel internally, rather than in sequence externally, Milwaukee Tool can develop new products faster and more effectively.
As Milwaukee Lithium-Ion battery technology continued to improve, the company launched a family of powerful performance M18™ Lithium-Ion tools and a family of compact M12™ Lithium-Ion tools focused on providing “disruptive innovation” to the plumbing, electrical, HVAC and MRO trades.
The M18™ cordless system was developed to be the ultimate synergy of professional grade power, extreme performance and superior ergonomics. With patented technologies, innovative motors, advanced electronics and the industry’s best battery technology, the M18™ family has been the fastest growing 18V cordless system on the market since its inception.
The M12™ cordless system was designed to deliver industry-leading durability and power in a size that outperforms the competition in the tightest places. Milwaukee created a new space in the professional power tool market with the M12™ system by transforming inefficient manual tools – such as cable and copper tubing cutters – into advanced workhorses powered by award-winning battery technology.
Using the same drive for innovation and leadership, Milwaukee aggressively expanded its tool accessories division by developing unique industry first technologies. In 2008 Milwaukee developed and launched a range of hole cutting accessories under the name “BIG HAWG™” and a range of SAWZALL™ Recip Blades that would serve a wide range of applications for users in the HVAC, electrical, plumbing and maintenance and repair trades. Through advancements in tooth geometry and bi-metal construction, the Milwaukee accessory business continued to grow. These new innovations quickly won new customers and kept the continued loyalty of the thousands of existing Milwaukee distributors and end-users. The accessory business flourished, and in 2009 Milwaukee launched a new line of impact-rated accessories under the SHOCKWAVE™ brand to serve the growing market of Impact Driver users. With the growing popularity of Impact Drivers, came an opportunity to innovate and provide a solution that could stand up to the extreme torque of these tools. Delivering high performance and functionality, the SHOCKWAVE™full range solution did just that, and provided up to 10X longer life than the competition.
In 2009, Milwaukee saw an opportunity to deliver overdue change to an under-served, dormant category. With a strong user base in electrical, HVAC/R, MRO and remodeling, Milwaukee launched several new productivity enhancing solutions in the Test and Measurement category. Engineered from the ground up, the new products strategically targeted Milwaukee’s core end-users with a focus on Electricians and HVAC/R Technicians.
Logging hundreds of hours on the jobsite, Milwaukee saw another opportunity to deliver innovation to their core users, and launched an entirely new business unit in 2010 for Hand Tool solutions. With the same focused approach on understanding end-user requirements, each tool was completely designed and engineered by Milwaukee to incorporate innovative features that provide application specific solutions for the Electrical, Mechanical, HVAC, MRO, and Remodeling trades. Milwaukee’s attention to innovation and user productivity set it apart from others in this space as they completely redesigned tools that had been around for decades and provided new-to-world features that would set a new standard for professional tradesmen.
Milwaukee had made it their mission to focus on and design new solutions that make tradesmen on the jobsite more productive, regardless of whether the solutions were electrical or battery powered, test equipment, accessories or hand tools. Their drive to improve workplace productivity continued to help push the envelope of innovation and design.
The Next Generation of Cordless
Work continued on the development of the next generation of Lithium-Ion technology, leading to the introduction of REDLITHIUM™-ION batteries in 2010. Fully compatible with all M12™ and M18™ cordless products, the new REDLITHIUM™-ION batteries provided up to 40% more run-time, 20% more power and 50% more recharges than other Lithium products on the market.
As the clear industry leader in cordless technology, Milwaukee continued to make advancements in motors, electronics and battery capabilities. With these advancements, came opportunities to challenge conventional wisdom on what types of tools could be effective cordless solutions.
In 2012, the company continued to revolutionize cordless power tools with the introduction of M18 and M12 FUEL™– exclusive lines of extreme-performance cordless power tools designed to deliver unmatched productivity. Milwaukee integrated three ground-breaking technologies: the POWERSTATE™ brushless motor, REDLITHIUM™-ION battery technology, and REDLINK PLUS™Intelligence, to provide a new class in durability, run-time and performance for the professional tradesman.
In 2013, Milwaukee expanded their award winning M18 FUEL™line with game-changing new products. Each boasting performance that rivals their corded counterparts, the new products included an M18 FUEL™ SAWZALL™ Reciprocating Saw, M18 FUEL™ 6-1/2″ Circular Saw, (4) M18 FUEL™ High Torque Impact Wrenches and (2) M18 FUEL™ 4-1/2″ – 5″ Grinders.
The mix of solutions Milwaukee is able to provide that increase productivity will continue to evolve as they drive breakthrough advancements in motors, lithium-ion batteries, and electronics, and as the industry explores alternative installation methods and materials. In 2014, Milwaukee will launch the Force Logic™ Knock Out Tool, the first in a series of high force tool solutions that will launch in the coming years to provide game-changing productivity to Milwaukee’s Core Users.
Milwaukee’s relentless cycle of product development and focused brand expansion firmly position the company as a leader in disruptive innovation, going beyond the requirements of the end-user and providing productivity enhancing solutions that are unparalleled in the industry.
Milwaukee is defined by unprecedented speed, agility, innovation, and quality. They strive for operational excellence in order to deliver best-in-class products that exceed the needs of end- users. To generate such innovation requires people; both the professionals who will use the power tools and the creative thinkers and production teams that turn ideas into products. One example of this is the Jobsite Solutions team. Tasked with engaging with professional users on a daily basis to understand needs and deliver solutions that will increase productivity, this team, while just one piece of the puzzle, is certainly an important part of the product development process.
In addition, with established partnerships with top universities from around the world, Milwaukee is committed to attracting the very best talent to deliver innovation and be at the forefront of technology. Within the TTI Group, Milwaukee plays an important role in TTI’s Leadership Development Program, which enables the Group to build future leaders by enabling fast-track young engineering, sales and marketing recruits to learn and experience different aspects of the company’s operation. This college recruitment program seeks to create a talent pool of outstanding people to drive TTI over the long term. The status of Milwaukee as a standard-setter for its sector offers key insight into the vital role of innovation for such recruits.
Yet as mentioned before, a further goal remains: “disruptive innovation”. Disruptive innovation changes the game. Creating fresh demand and new markets, disruptive innovation is about delivering new-to-world technology and unparalleled levels of performance and productivity to the user, changing the way the job will be done in the future. Always striving to soar to the next level of performance has been a hallmark of the company since its establishment in the 1920s. Under TTI, Milwaukee will continue to deliver a steady stream of advanced solutions for the trades.