Tool suppliers are becoming more one-stop-shops as businesses develop their core and accessory products, and focus attention on education.

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 print edition of IMPO. 

There was a time when the power tool industry was mainly focused on the obvious: developing and selling power tools. And while this is still the crux of the business for these manufacturers and distributors, the marketplace has expanded like every other: now these businesses provide more than just your standard drills, saws, or screwdrivers. As many become more integrated, they’ve begun to delve into more accessories – including personal protective equipment and general safety gear, along with improved battery technology – and training and educational offerings. And as always, the core products just seem to get better and better.
Tech Improvements
As the skilled trades gap widens, some tool suppliers have responded by designing to the lowest common denominator — specifically, developing tools that are easier to use for workers with minimal skill that may be new or temporary. And even highly skilled professionals can benefit from some of the additional features centered on accuracy, safety, and efficiency.
Mountz, a San Jose-based manufacturer specializing in torque tools, has developed a line of power assembly tools that feature a patented clutch design assembly so they can deliver reliable accuracy with repeatable torque control. The clutch mechanism of Mountz air screwdrivers shuts off the air supply when the preset torque setting is achieved, preventing over-torque conditions from occurring.
Additional controls can help improve battery life – much like the BL Brushless motor, used in Makita’s 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 1/2” Hammer Driver-Drill Kit – which is electronically controlled to optimize battery energy use for up to 50 percent longer run time per charge. In addition, the electronically controlled BL Brushless Motor efficiently uses energy to match torque and RPM to the changing demands of the application.
Milwaukee Electric claims its exclusive line of REDLITHIUM batteries provide up to 40 percent more run-time, 20 percent more power, and 50 percent more recharges than conventional lithium-Ion batteries. REDLITHIUM batteries deliver performance in extreme job-site conditions, including temps as low as 0 degrees F. In regions where heat is also a critical factor, REDLITHIUM batteries operate 20 percent cooler than conventional lithium-ion batteries and offer fade-free power with no memory effect. These packs can provide an instant upgrade to Milwaukee’s line of M18 cordless products, and are cost effective based on their ability to outlast older technology.
Education & Outreach
As the technology improves, there is still a need for educated users and, often, these companies take it upon themselves to help connect the dots when it comes to industry skill development. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see big names in the business align themselves with awareness campaigns. Mike Rowe of TV’s Dirty Jobs made a name for himself as an activist of sorts — bringing to light the decline of blue collar trades and a skills gap that was preventing vacancies in skilled trades from being filled (For more information, visit the Mike Rowe Works page).
Likewise, tool companies like Irwin launched their own campaigns — with its National Tradesman Day developed in order to celebrate the men and women who use their hands “to contribute so meaningfully to our lives in so many ways,” according to the event site. This celebration kicked off in 2011, and asks people to participate by stopping by a construction jobsite with a box of doughnuts or buying lunch or a coffee for a tradesperson as a ‘thank you’ for their hard work.
Other businesses try to promote skilled trades through educational outreach. Grainger’s Tools for Tomorrow scholarship program has helped technical education students across the country realize their educational goals. The scholarship recognizes outstanding students with a $2,000 scholarship and a customized Westward toolkit upon successful completion of the student’s technical education program.
Applicants considered can be studying trades like electronic systems, heating/air conditioning, plumbing, pneumatics, welding, automotive, construction, facilities maintenance, or another industrial trade.