Hipsters sitting in an apartment in Silicon Valley or on the wharf in Boston can code a new restaurant-reservation app or pixelize a new video game with knockoff characters from Game of Thrones. However, it requires people who know their way using a power tool geo-fence a concrete rotary hammer and to create a factory floor procedure for creating sewer cleaner.
The latter type of people Milwaukee Tool is searching, as the rapidly expanding company continues to increase its R&D capabilities and manufacturing presence within Flyover Country, mostly in Wisconsin but also in Chicago. In fact, the Milwaukee-based company is a leading model of how a traditional manufacturing firm located in the heart of America can successfully redesign itself to succeed in the age of industrial electrification and digitization.
There’s a 98-year history in Milwaukee Tool, which historically made a variety of power tools designed for skilled tradesmen, including the renowned Sawzall the reciprocating saw. The company’s products are strapped onto the belts of tools or in the waiting room for thousands of tradespeople across the world , and increasingly can be found on work benches in garages of the same number of American DIY-oriented consumers.
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The company has grown at a rate of at least 20% per year for more than a decade under the guidance by Steve Richman, who became the group president of Milwaukee Tool in 2007. There’s a question regarding Chinese controlling the company Hong Kong-based Techtronic Industries bought Milwaukee Tool from Sweden’s Atlas Copco AB in 2004 as well as facilities elsewhere but the majority of the company’s capital investments in manufacturing, product development and hiring is happening at its various manufacturing facilities located in Wisconsin. It has a brand new downtown Milwaukee headquarters, which is currently under construction.
The key in Milwaukee Tool’s current success growing the market’s share as well as sales over other giants like Hilti and 3M is that it has become an “solutions” business rather than a traditional tool manufacturer.
“We have become an “outside-in” business,” Richman told me, “by being aware of who our customers are. We have a plethora of employees such as engineers, marketers and designers who are on the job all over the world, recognizing the needs of the users and how we can assist them to increase productivity and ensure safety at work.
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In addition, a major technological advantage for Milwaukee Tool has been its innovative work in lithium-ion technology in batteries. This allowed Milwaukee Tool to design portable power tools that have all the power of gas-powered and corded models. In contrast, competitors appeared content with their less powerful nickel-cadmium battery.
“It enabled us and our highly skilled engineering teams to comprehend the many aspects related to battery tech ahead of any other company competitors,” Richman said. “That created a distinct advantage in the market.” Indeed, in the present lithium-ion batteries have been behind the advancements in everything from electric vehicles to smartphones.
Dale Buss is the founder and director-executive of The Flyover Coalition, a not-for-profit group that works to revive and boost the economy individuals, businesses and communities in the region between the Appalachians and the Rockies as well as in the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes. He is a long-time writer journalist, reporter, editor of newspapers and magazines and contributing for the Chief Executive, Forbes as well as the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and a host of other publications. Buss is an Wisconsin native, who resides in Michigan as well as having resided throughout Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida.