At the last Milwaukee media event that I attended, back in 2015, I asked one or two of the product engineers about whether they coordinate with their counterparts at Ridgid and Ryobi brands. As you might know, TTI is the parent company of Milwaukee Tool, and Ridgid and Ryobi’s power tool businesses in North America.
At the time, I asked the question about whether the brands talk to each other because I know they operate completely independently, or at least Milwaukee is completely separate from Ridgid and Ryobi tool development and activities.
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But there are too many strategic parallels to ignore. They MUST be talking to each other, at least at the highest levels.
Ryobi came out with a cordless fan. And then so did Milwaukee.
Ryobi came out with a cordless drain snake. And then so did Milwaukee.
Milwaukee and Ryobi have been coming out with tons of new LED worklight products, independently. And now Ridgid is coming out with a greatly expanded LED worklight lineup as well.
The product types are similar, but the technologies are different. I am still convinced that the brands are developing their tools independently, but there must be some strategic sharing towards the top.
Not convinced yet?
There are 4 cordless oil pulse drivers on the market:
Maybe there are some parts common to the TTI brands’ tools. Or maybe they just come out of the same TTI factory that is flexible enough to manufacture variants of the same motor for the different brands.
By itself, seeing strategic coordination at the highest levels of the brands isn’t an important insight, or speculation, and what you can call it depends on whether my observations result from genuine coincidences.
Coordination between Ridgid and Ryobi power tools is definitely there, seeing as how the tools are developed under the same roof and are sold exclusively at Home Depot. So just please keep in mind that it’s coordination between Milwaukee and these other brands that I see as being substantiated.
As tool users, this means lots of different options and smarter tool development. Between the 3 brands, there will soon be more LED worklight products than probably all of their competitors combined.
In a simplistic sense, it also somewhat reorders or sorts the tool options into “good,” “better,” and “best” options.
That type of a system, if it is indeed what is striven for, makes TTI and its brands far more formidable to their competitors than I had realized.
Here’s what I wish for – a step-down battery pack adapter that would allow Milwaukee M18 batteries to work in all 3 brands’ 18V tools, and Ridgid batteries to work in theirs or Ryobi’s 18V tools. That would be amazing. Likely impossible, but one could hope.
I’ve worked in product engineering for a similar company (not designing power tools) and you might be surprised how little communication happens between engineering teams. The mothership would give us a couple markets where we were supposed to attack and put two divisions working on their own solution. I went through a few product programs like that and we didn’t discuss anything with the other division at least not in the trenches. There may have been some discussions at a high level but we never had any visibility to it.
That seems to be clear here as well, but it’s still significant if strategy is being shared or coordinated at or near the leadership levels.
I really would like to see power tool companies take a cue from auto manufacturers and start pushing for inter-brand cooperation and platform sharing. In the auto industry, modular design and platform sharing has led to lower development costs, improved designs, and lower repair costs.
A universal battery standard in all 3 brands is a gamble, albeit one with a rather large payoff.
The downside is that it cheapens the image of the upmarket brands, and allows the downmarket tools to cannibalize sales in some applications.
The main upside is that creates the impression of an industry standard, and conditions consumers to look for tools with compliance to that standard. Another upside is that it results in an impressive jump in the total number of individual tools associated with the chosen standard. I would imagine that between all the TTI brands, there are about 300 or so total cordless tools available at 18V alone.
Finally, a universal battery standard actually creates a branding opportunity, in that it frees a given brand to focus on one or two specialty markets, rather than trying to capture every market three times over with a “me-too” tool released for each brand.
A brand entirely dedicated to a given trade will occupy a stronger place in the customer’s mind than one that tries to do absolutely everything. What’s more, that brand could focus its development efforts on a specific target, reducing lead times and increasing quality.
Seems like this would benefit the auto industry because of the extreme high costs associated with manufacturing and probably not so much for the power tool industry.
It also relies on sometimes strange brand alliances. The Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe were the same car, but had fairly different external designs. I wouldn’t normally consider Pontiac and Toyota as focusing on the same markets.
The Scion (which is Toyota) iA is actually a Mazda 2, with only the badge changed. Which makes it stick out from the rest of the Scion lineup.
Think of buying a Bosch European tool, but it’s painted yellow with a DeWalt logo, and isn’t compatible with your other Bosch tools (unless we get universal batteries). Is this necessarily something you want? OEM’s and white-label manufacturers have already clouded brands, I’m not sure I want it taken any further.
The Pontiac Vibe had 90-95% of the parts as a Toyota Matrix, but with a few differences. Those differences came up when you wanted to change the serpentine belt, work on the air conditioning, etc. Found out the hard way when I just ordered Matrix parts and though they’d fit on a Vibe. Nope, not everything.
Same thing with power tools – even though brands share designs and even a majority of parts, the minor differences come up.
I wonder if, rather than Milwaukee, RIdgid, and Ryobi talking to each other, TTI is taking a more proactive role. TTI could be doing the market research, and passing down a directive to each tool company, “Oil-impulse drivers are going to be popular, make sure you release one before the 3rd Quarter” or something.
Seems inefficient to have 3 separate teams doing the same R&D, but maybe they see 3 bites at the apple.
Agreed, it would make sense to me to have the parent company passing down orders like that. If they see a hole in the market then it makes sense to have them tell all the companies to make something to fill in the gap at their price range.
I disagree. Nobody knows Milwaukee’s business like Milwaukee. I seriously doubt anyone is telling Steven Richman what to do.
Great observation, as usual. Methinks, I have a hunch. All the tools you listed: if memory serves; such as the fan (also very similar to the Artic Cove fan/mister that runs on Ryobi One+), drain snake, and oil pulse driver were released by Milwaukee last. Leaves me with a hypothesis. Either Milwaukee, uses the dyi brands under TTI, to test market to see if said tool “deserves” to be made in the flagship Milwaukee brand. Or Milwaukee simply observes how well sales of certain tools made by Ryobi and Ridged and just does a run on these tools in red black with the higher grade Milwaukee plastic and slight modification to accept the M18 battery. This leads me to a question. Is Milwaukee re-branding, Ryobi and Ridged tools with Milwaukee ‘skins’ and charging more: or are they actually redesigning these tools with higher quality innards?
It could just be a matter of manufacturing capacity. Ryobi tools are typically stocked at Home Depot, so you need more of them.
This might also give the factory and manufacturing engineers time to test and further develop the Milwaukee versions.
No, I don’t think Milwaukee tools would be “reskinned” from Ryobi or Ridgid guts.
Milwaukee tools are going to be designed and manufactured to stand up to greater user and environmental demands than Ryobi tools, and probably Ridgid as well.
There’s a youtube channel in which a gentleman takes tools apart and inspects the individual parts as well as fit and finish between tools and brands. He has quite a bit of knowledge in seeing the price point difference between material usage and parts selection. He shows where each tool sacrifices to a price point. Milwaukee has the best fit and finish among the major brands as well as the smallest most powerful motors. Their electronics are top notch as well as their moisture and dirt intrusion prevention. Their battery packs are very well built with the latest electronics and shock prevention. Milwaukee has excellent fit and finish with proper reinforcement and attention to detail. Ryobi, Ridgid, and Milwaukee share very little parts. It’s easy to see the difference between them once you take them apart. Ryobi is very entry level with their switches and electronics as well as their choices in plastics with decent motor designs. Very little moisture and dust prevention as well as shock absorbing materials. They work well as a home tool. Ridgid has a higher level of exterior plastics with better switches and good motors and batteries that are made to last longer and resist moisture and dirt better. They have placed themselves at the higher end of the DIY and Pro market. After watching him dissect many brands of tools I feel confident that even though Milwaukee costs more you get more and are very powerful efficient tools that stand the test of time. It also seems that when they go on sale there is more room for a price reduction so if you pay attention you can get some really good deals that make the choice to go red much more logical.
This arrangement is not that unfamiliar if you take a look at General Motors you can buy a Chevy at the low end, a Buick in the mid-range or a Cadillac at the high end.
Certain parts / motors / drive trains are shared between the “brands” because each division re-inventing the same parts doesn’t make any sense.
While it’s common knowledge for people that frequent sites like this that TTI owns the three brands, for Joe average consumer they don’t know that and they believe they are three competing brands.
I suspect there is a little bit of guidance and a little bit of hey they are working on this, let’s do one too but make it __________
better, stronger, cheaper, lighter – something. like a competition.
meanwhile the plate spinners at corporate just rub their hands together and grin.
Too bad Milwaukee didn’t consult Ryobi a bit more on their nailers.
I really hope the upcoming Milwaukee string trimmer isn’t an over-priced, poorly executed attempt to get into OPE.
SBD should also be mentioned in the same context. It is no coincidence that Black & Decker and Porter Cable had to drop their 18 volt lines to reinforce the 20volt Max phoney battery logic. I get that DeWalt needed to differentiat between the 18volt post pack and the newer slide packs. Porter Cable had lithium slide packs that worked great, and DeWalt had lithium post packs but now I keep hearing the older 18volt SBD lines referred to as being NiCAD tools when they actually had lithium. I’m still feeling burned by Porter Cable being stuck in this.
Another great example is the upcoming Porter Cable restorer tool that will also have a Black and Decker branding. The tool was actually designed by Welington Tool company and then bought by SBD for these two brands.
What’s a restorer tool?
From what I was told, the 20V Max tools are somewhat different than the 18V.
The 18V tools and chargers had to support Li-ion and NiCad battery chemistries. That limited what could be done moving forward.
Here is the link for the Restorer tool: http://www.wellingtontool.com/ I see Lowes has the sanding sleeves listed on their website, but not the actual tool. Here is the inventor’s YouTube channel showing the tool: https://www.youtube.com/user/KundelCrane/videos
In Australia Ridged is sold as AEG. Milwaukee heated jacket power adapter can be plugged in the AEG heater jacket and vise versa.
I would think they are definitely combining their collective purchasing power on standard jellybean electrical components. To not do so would be rather silly.
Yes, the higher margin Milwaukee tools can justify, and need, certain components to be a higher spec. A lot of stuff would be shareable though.
As far as new product development goes, if TTI is already purchasing LEDs and their control electronics for one brand it would make it that much easier for their other brands to get access to and Engineering/development knowledge of those components. This could have something to do with the coincidental product releases?
I had the pleasure of speaking with a Milwaukee power tool Engineer over dinner a few months ago, and it sounded like much of their design/development team is local to their Wisconsin facilities.
Yeah, this is it in a nutshell. No reason to source various parts with minor differences when you can just get crates of one part in bulk and use that in everything.
The Milwaukee/Ridgid tools get heavy duty motors and better battery packs and the Ryobi and Craftsman/other contracted label tools get lower-spec parts to meet that lower price point.
Same with the overall design of the plastic body – use one mold for the basic plastic shell, but different rubber overmolds.
heres a nice piece that covers some of the inner workings at TTI:
Is this why Ryobi is not showing up in the 12v game? They don’t want to steal from Milwaukee’s quasi monopoly on 12v tools and ridgids lacklustre but uber affordable and with some power to give $99 12v combo
I doubt it.
Craftsman and other DIYer-focused brands seem to have pretty much abandoned the 12V tool size. So why wouldn’t Ryobi, for the same reasons whatever they might be?
Craftsman still sells their compact 12V Nextec tool lineup.
Given the price point Ryobi already hits with their 18v tools, and the power of Milwaukee’s 12v tools, I just don’t see a meaningful reason for Ryobi to go there. Engineering costs increase as you get more compact, and they would have to sell their 12v stuff cheaper than they already sell their 18v line.
There’s no reason for Ryobi to offer a $99 compact 12V combo, since you can get that from Bosch/Milwaukee if you buy on sale. Craftsman’s Nextec 12V compact line shows what Ryobi would have if it offered anything.
HD sells a 12V drill with battery and charger for $50:
I doubt TTi has much interest in the Ryobi brand name going farther down in the price point range.
You can already get compact 12V drills for $25:
That’s the market a compact 12V Ryobi would be going into.
I think it has more to do with user expectations.
And by “user,” I really mean “users who don’t really know what they’re doing or what an certain tool is intended for & capable of.” Can you imagine the returns? Depot’s return policy is basically “We’ll take anything back!”
I have plenty of contractor friends who don’t even know how to use the clutch on a drill. Others put abrasive discs on circ. saws to cut multiple rebar. Then you always have the guys who think hammer drills are for concrete; have no clue what SDS is.
And these are pros using tools every day… Think about home-owners & DIYers. When something goes wrong & they can’t the job done, it’s always “the tool’s fault.”
While I think there is a fairly significant amount of autonomy, there is definitely some overarching strategic planning happening. You see clear competitive positions for each brand, and there is no aggressive effort from each brand to attract the target consumer of the other. There is always some natural crossover, especially with Ridgid, but that piece seems designed to capture remaining consumers who fit into a grey area (e.g. Serious DIY user, or occasional use on the jobsite).
Milwaukee is well run, and I’m sure that you wouldn’t see mission creep with that brand regardless, but the fact that all TTI brands are so well defined, indicates coordination at the strategic level, especially as it relates to brand positioning, and target market.
The definition between brands also shows how much attention TTI pays to QA / QC. Generally, these tools perform as intended by the manufacturer, and as expected by the customer.
To me that’s a good thing, meaning I know what to expect when I buy one of their brands. It’s also nice for smaller businesses, and homeowners doing purchasing, as they won’t have time to dedicate to research. Stanley B&D isn’t nearly as clear with these lines, and unless you are buying DeWalt, it’s hard to tell what exactly you are getting without doing more research.
I actually have made an adapter for ridgid to makita using the top of a dead makita battery that I rummaged from one of the recycle bins at a big box store and the connections from an old ridgid charger. it works great on my 18v makita grinder that i got for $10 at a garage sale. gonna make a ridgid to ryobi adapter once I get a dead ryobi battery as well.
as an adition to my previous comment, you can get files off thingverse for 3d printers of adapters that people have made for a couple of different brands. the key is that you need to make sure that if the MFG puts the over draw protections in their tools (like dewalt) then you cannot use their batteries adapted to a brand that has the overdraw in the batteries (like ryobi) because they will fully drain and never take a recharge.
TTI, Tech Tronics Industries is pretty clear that ALL of their brand’s product innovations are part of their overall strategic strategy.
From their website:
“TTI is a world-class leader in design, manufacturing and marketing of Power Tools, Outdoor Power Equipment, and Floor Care and Appliances for consumers, professional and industrial users in the home improvement, repair and construction industries. Our unrelenting strategic focus on Powerful Brands, Innovative Products, Operational Excellence and Exceptional People drives our culture.”
It would be naive to think that any of the companies; Milwaukee, Ryobi, AEG are not directly overseen by TTI. RIGID is not owned by TTI, but by Emerson who license the RIGID name for cordless tools manufactured by the TTI AEG brand to be sold exclusively at Home Depot.
When Milwaukee was first acquired, TTI announced that they did so to keep a firm foundation on the American “Image.” Milwaukee’s Brookfield Wisconsin office is not the separate entity that is portrayed in their Marketing or on their label.
Still, great tools but it still amazes me when people think of Milwaukee as a great American brand. It is American only in the past tense. Of course true of the majority of our brands.
My guess is that TTi goes, “hey an oil impulse driver might sell, but we don’t want to ruin Milwaukee’s credibility among tradesmen by releasing something that seems gimmicky. Let’s introduce it to the market as a Ryobi and see if it gets a foothold and shows up in professional users boxes , if tradesmen have a demand for it, and then iron any flaws out” at phase two they go “let’s see if people will pay money for it as a Ridgid.” At the end it ultimately gets released as a professional grade tool for Milwaukee at Milwaukee’s prices.
Thing is, a Ryobi cordless tool isn’t going to just show up in professional users’ boxes, since you have to have the battery and charger for a cordless tool. You’d have to have a heck of a tool for a dedicated Milwaukee/Ridgid/Bosch/Dewalt buyer to not only buy the Ryobi tool, but be willing to deal with an additional battery (or two) plus the charger, in addition to their usual cordless tools.
I’d say Ryobi is more the line of tools where not “gimmicky” but “useful for the homeowner” stuff gets greenlit – stuff that would be mostly useless to a building contractor or pro builder.
Ryobi isn’t really a bad choice for a tool setup, even for pros. It’s just obvious they are built to do the job at a certain price point, and not on the same level as Milwaukee/Bosch. Still great stuff for what it costs, even better with discounts.
I recently spoke to somebody from TTI here in Germany considering a 12V rotary hammer from AEG. During this conversation, she told me that the AEG tools and the Milwaukee tools are manufactured in the same plant. The innards of my AEG rotary hammer are actually identical to the previous Milwaukee rotary hammer. This seems to be the case for various tools from these two brands (and Ridgid of course). both brands are also handelt by the same people here. Ryobi instead is handled by another group.
Highly doubtful. AEG & RIDGID, yes, they are essentially the exact same. In no way would Milwaukee be making AEG, except for a rare case of protoypes.
In this case it is definitely true. It might even be that the TTI group develops their rotary hammers here in the old AEG plant / development center . They were famous for their rotary hammers.
I am talking about these two products:
AEG BBH12 http://de.aeg-powertools.eu/produkte/bohrhammer/bbh-12/
To check the parts you have to scroll down to the tab on the bottom
Milwaukee M12 H http://www.milwaukeetool.eu/powertools/cordless/m12-h/
The tab is on the top right.
You young kids today think everything is new. This has been going on for at least thirty years! Milwaukee has been painting AEG screwdrivers red and selling this:
for at least that long.
You mentioned that you believe that TTI appears to be arranging the 3 brands in a “good, better, best” line up. Which brand would you say is which position?
I’m in my early 20s and figure it’s time to begin building up my own stock of tools. I live in the Milwaukee area and would love to support a local brand, BUT I also want to make smart purchases and invest in quality tools that will last.
Thanks for the help!
Ryobi = Good
Ridgid = Better
Milwaukee = Best
Stick with BAD, BETTER, BEST, the bad one almost killed me because of a flange nut that flew apart.
Good = Ryobi. Target users: Homeowners, DIYers, & light-duty pro.
Better = Ridgid. Target users: Advanced DIY to medium-duty pro. Lifetime Service Agreement is a great benefit!
Best = Milwaukee. Heavy Duty pro… In their hands all day, every day.
Tip: Determine which tools you want to acquire (over time), and go from there. Ryobi has a nice array of tools used in general, a few specialty tools for plumbing, and a lot of neat lifestyle products in their 18v lineup . Ridgid has your basic range of general contractor tools, but hardly any specialty. Milwaukee has all of your general contractor tools (in different sizes), and an abundance of specialty tools.
Aeg 18v pro lithium 6AH batteries are lucky to take 100 charges before radical degradation. I have 9 of the over- hyped things. Their 18v recipro saw also has major flaws, weak contacts, brushes wear out, switch jams on etc. I have 3 of these. Sick of returning them. Still under warranty. Rubbish.