If you follow several tool and home-improvement news and review sites, you probably know that major manufacturers have media events at least once a year where they show off their new tools and products. It sounds like a lot of fun, checking out the latest and greatest hardware, and it really is, but there’s also a lot of work involved in covering such events.
Earlier this month I attended Milwaukee’s annual new product media event for the first time, and it was an exceptionally insightful experience. There were exciting new products, Milwaukee engineers and product managers aplenty that were eager to be quizzed, great food, and many other friendly faces.
I’ve already reported on a number of upcoming tools, such as two torpedo levels, an updated FastBack 2 utility knife, and the super-compact M12 rotary hammer. There are also new heated jackets, an M18 power source and charger, M12 cable cutter, M12 caulk and adhesive gun, M18 Fuel impact wrenches, new meters, and several very exciting tools that are under strict embargo. Posts discussing the new products will be listed in our new tools and Milwaukee tools pages.
Without a doubt, Steven Richman, the president of Milwaukee Tool, is passionate about the company and its products. Looking at his bio in the 2007 press release that announced his appointment, it looks like he has quite a bit of experience in the industry as well.
Like any corporate exec, Mr. Richman does a great job selling the brand, their motivation, and new innovations. He emphasizes Milwaukee’s strengths and belittles their weaknesses, and there is some marketing fluff in what he said at the event, but this was to be expected.
What I didn’t expect was the passion that seems to shine through from behind Richman’s words. It seems that he doesn’t just care about making and selling tools, he wants Milwaukee to produce good tools and accessories. When discussing what he called his favorite among all of the new products, Richman genuinely seemed almost gleeful.
Maybe I’m reading too much into things, or seeing something that’s not there, but I don’t think so. In either case, it’s good to see that Milwaukee’s president seems to have a personal affinity towards the company and its products.
Milwaukee’s Philosophy and Strategy
It was stressed a couple of times at the event that Milwaukee is all about providing solutions for its core users – plumbers, electricians, and other tradesmen and professionals – that make their tasks quicker or easier. In some cases this means coming up with new products that professionals don’t even know they needed.
One of the tools available for demo was Milwaukee’s newish fluorescent lighting tester. As you can imagine, despite its usefulness, this is not going to be a tool they sell a lot of. But it seems reasonable to me that someone saving a lot of time with a specialty tool like this might turn into a Milwaukee fanboy, for lacking or a more appropriate description.
Behind the Scenes
As part of the event we were taken on a tour throughout parts of the HQ facility, including an immense rapid prototyping and machining shop, a new product testing center, and the industrial designers’ workstations.
Unfortunately but with good reason, we were asked not to take photos during the behind-the-scenes tour. So I can’t show you that the designer’s desks were nice-looking slabs on top of framing lumber with what looked like pipes for horizontal bracing. Or that there was a room just filled with power tool motors, wiring, controllers, and other parts. Maybe it’s better that no photos were allowed, as I have my hands full just working on new product posts.
At the End of the Day
I don’t go to media events expecting anything more than a show-and-tell of the latest tool developments, but I usually leave with much more. I now have a better understanding of the company’s leadership and goals, as discussed above, and in addition to details about the new products I was able to squeeze out answers to several random long-standing questions.
I know that most readers won’t be interested in anything but the New Tools heading of this post and additional preview posts that are to follow, but I felt it’s worth discussing how and why my impression of Milwaukee has changed. Part of the why has to do with some of the new products that you’ll soon read about, but a big part is derived from my conversations and experiences at the media event.
P.S. I believe someone mentioned that Milwaukee was looking to hire new engineers. Their headquarters looks like a fun place to work, and if not for the 3-hours-by-air commute and probability I would have to give up ToolGuyd, I might have considered tossing my resume into the pile.
Thank you Milwaukee for the invite, and for having me at the event, and thank you to all of the engineers and product managers for their insights, for answering my questions (even many of the prying ones), and for the friendly chats*.
*This is a major reason why I find media events so informative not to mention enjoyable – 5-minutes face to face with an engineer or product manager is just so much more effective than a press release or even several back-and-forths with a marketing or media relations contact (no offense guys and gals, that’s just how it is).
Milwaukee paid for my travel, lodging, and meals. At no point did anyone suggest what I can or should write about, although there are a few new products that I cannot write about until embargoes clear as per the NDA agreement I signed.