Professional tool brands have been increasing their USA footprint in recent years, with expansion in R&D, manufacturing, and service efforts.
There are not many new developments, but I thought it would be helpful for a consolidated post that looks at major professional tool brands’ current and recent activities.
The importance of domestic expansion efforts can vary, depending on the context as well as individual perspectives. But, generally, such efforts ultimately beneficially contribute towards tool users’ experiences.
At the least, “make it where you sell it” policies can help ease supply chain and freight disruptions. “Design, engineer, and manage the product where you sell it” has other benefits.
Stanley Black & Decker
As I reported in May, Stanley Black & Decker has been making progress on their Forth Worth, Texas factory.
The factory is expected to manufacture mechanics tool sets for Stanley Black & Decker’s Craftsman brand, at the least, with the first tools expected to ship to retailers shortly.
I very strongly believe we will see some Dewalt tools come out of this factory as well, but that remains to be seen. It is unlikely that we will see broad Dewalt offerings, but it would be a missed opportunity if nothing is planned.
Stanley Black & Decker is going through a leadership transition right now, and they’ve also been hit hard by current economic conditions. We might not see many additional expansion efforts in the near future.
Stanley Black & Decker acquired a cadre of outdoor power tool brands in mid-2021, after owning a 20% stake in 2019.
The company typically does not publicize their internal upgrade or expansion efforts, but they have surely has been working on reinvestment and manufacturing tech advancement projects, and so they have not necessarily been idle.
Milwaukee recently announced new R&D offices in Chicago. At the recent Pipeline 2022 media event, Milwaukee Tool group president Steven Richman affirmed the company’s intent to further expand their USA footprint.
Milwaukee has also recently announced construction on their newest facility in Grenada County, Mississippi, with the expansion intended to accommodate the company’s growing power tool accessories and power tool business, and also serve as a centralized repair facility. The new location will create more than 800 new jobs, and is planned to open in mid-2023.
Another new Milwaukee manufacturing facility, which was announced in 2020, is also nearing completion. The West Bend, Wisconsin facility will manufacture new-to-market hand tools for professional electricians and utility linemen.
Towards the end of 2017, Milwaukee employed over 3,500 people in the USA. Now, 4-1/2 years later, Milwaukee employs over 10,000 people in the USA.
I asked Milwaukee Tool if this is accurate, as a 3-fold increase in US jobs in a little over 4 years is quite the feat. Here’s what they said:
Milwaukee Tool employs more than 10,000 people in the U.S. In the last year we’ve hired nearly 3,000 people. In fact, we’ve increased our U.S. workforce by 7x in the last decade.
Richman pledged to create more USA jobs and expand Milwaukee Tool’s domestic tool production efforts, and it looks like Milwaukee Tool has been doing exactly that.
Last year Makita USA announced a a land purchase outside of Atlanta, GA.
We asked for more details, and Makita USA’s communication manager said:
All we can say at this point is that the land was purchased for planned future expansion. We have no further details to offer at this time.
Details about a new building later became public:
this new facility will further increase our operations, service, and training capabilities.
It is unknown whether Makita USA completed their new office building yet.
I recently contacted Makita USA upper management, asking for updated information on any domestic expansion projects the company might be working on, but they never responded.
What Jobs are Tool Brands Hiring For?
Stanley Black & Decker Jobs
Milwaukee Tool Jobs
Makita USA Jobs
Brands’ job boards can sometimes signal completion stages of major expansion projects, such as when a factory is built and new engineer and technician jobs are created.
I also always find it illuminating to see what types of careers and job positions different tool brands have available, and this goes beyond the companies mentioned here.
Which brands are hiring design researchers, manufacturing engineers, technicians, product managers, tool and die makers, motor engineers, project leaders, quality techs, and so forth?
And which brands are mainly hiring sales representatives?
Brands will put out all kinds of marketing and corporate messages, but watch their job boards for an extended period of time, and you’ll see if what they do matches what they say.
Just checked the Craftsman website under “Where It’s Made”.
The first entry is “Select Mechanics Tools Sets”, “Made in Ft. Worth Texas With Global Materials”.
I live in the upstate of South Carolina and can see several huge Ryobi buildings going up. They are also adding on to their existing buildings. I heard they will make lawn mowers in there and are hiring 100’s of people.
Thanks! I haven’t heard anything about that yet.
Sounds right…I’ve seen Ryobi advertising USA made (or made in USA with global components or assembled in USA ) lawn mowers.
Matt the Hoople
Drove by a bunch of those Ryobi buildings a few weeks ago traveling from Alabama to Virginia.
Matt the Hoople
As for Makita outside of Atlanta. I was visiting one of our suppliers in that area last month. They were complaining that It was difficult to hire employees due to all of the growth in their neighborhood. This included Makita so it sounds like they are up and running or very close.
I’ as someone who has done extensive work with manufacturing at scale, I’m dubious to say the least. For things like toolboxes, hand tools, peripherals, etc. sure, build it here. Power tools on the other hand is very difficult problem to solve if your goal is to produce them domestically; especially to the point they can vary the actual “Made in USA” label. It’s actually harder than most people think to officially claim it. Anyhow, power tool manufacturing domestically isn’t just a problem you can solve by throwing money at it. It extremely difficult. In short, China has decades of experience in this area. All the best, most state of the art facilities are in China and their workforce is already experienced. If cost was no issue, which it always is, you still can’t just decide to build one here. One of the biggest challenges would be feeding supplies pipeline to produce products at scale. There’s a lot on manufacturing infrastructure in place for things like motors and silicon in China and it’s completely non existent here for consumer products. For things like batteries, it’ll just never happen.
Just to keep things high level, why are they even interested in producing power tools domestically if China is clearly equipped to do it far better (not a matter of opinion, it’s a matter of fact) – it’s obviously marketing. “Made in USA” in the tool game is leveraged as a marketing advantage because some users will be swayed heavily by it, and you know they’ve done the math. People should just be aware that just because something is made here, it doesn’t make it better. Believe it or not, we don’t do everything the best. I’d be hard pressed to believe we could build a better watch than the Swiss, or a better electronics than the Japanese. If we end up making power tools on our home turf, if still be willing to wager the ones coming from factories in China will be of support or quality for the foreseeable future.
It’s not always about marketing. The big C-suite buzzword floating around recently has been “re-shoring” or “friend-shoring”. The Covid-induced supply chain inversions of the past couple years have apparently been making people think twice about offshoring all manufacturing to China and ASEAN. Heck, the Chicago rail yards are still completely snarled, and ports still clogged – right now, in my industry, it’s cheaper and faster to ship goods to a West Coast port, offload them to a warehouse, and truck them across the entire country than to ship them via rail to inland locations. And we’re near Chicago. I also read an article the other day that mentioned that Great Lakes ports (e.g. Cleveland) are experiencing surges in cargo volumes because the West Coast ports are so backed up.
Your comments about the sub-supplier base (motors, etc.) do make sense, though. I know Milwaukee, at least, touts their in-house manufacturing of many electrical and electronic components, so my guess would be that other players would follow a similarly integrated route.
You have a compelling point about the logistics, which is definitely a worthwhile consideration. While it’s all important, I’ve seen these facilities China is the industry leader head and shoulders above the competition. It’s not impossible to replicate, but for a company to match the quality scaled up to market demand, it will take a very very long time and cost a tremendous front end investment. China’s manufacturing climate has changed a lot for people wanting to do business there. Believe it or not it’s not nearly as cheap as it used to be to build things there anymore. It’s remained so popular because their manufacturing capabilities are very good. I always like to say, China is special because they what comes out of there is a lot of the worst stuff but also a lot of the best stuff. They’re the manufacturing capital of the world, you can get any level of quality you want from there. Circling back to your point, it’s still true that the ports are the gatekeepers to getting these products to the end users and actually making sales. Maybe that could be a driving force as to why so many companies are seriously exploring domestic manufacturing. Even if they’re well aware that it couldn’t match China’s, it could very well offset supply needs that result from globalized supply chain snags. That would probably be my biggest motivation if I was a tool company.
DeWalt stuff is nowhere near as robust as it used to be when it was made in USA/Germany. However, I don’t think this has much to do where it was made, more the quality of the design and the materials used.
I actually think you can get stuff manufactured better in China than you can in Europe or America as you can throw more man-hours at it and take more time.
Chinese workers have a far better attention to detail and better work ethic in general.
I remember years ago speaking to the CEO of a Danish loudspeaker manufacturer who said that they could never get the degree of lacquer and finish on their high end cabinets in Europe because of the man-hours involved and the over the top levels of extraction required by law. So they were made in China. The cabinets were 40% of the cost of the speakers and these were $15000 speakers at retail.
That said, there are economic/political and moral reasons why you shouldn’t get stuff made in China.
So make it in the USA/Europe/Japan/S Korea and other free democratic countries.
Cordless power tools tend to be built all over the world, not just China.
Comparing entry-level mechanics tools, such as wrenches, made-in-China products tend to have much better surface finish and coating quality than made-in-USA. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I was told it’s because certain manufacturing chemicals aren’t allowed to be used in the USA. Higher-end made-in-USA tools have exceptionally good chrome, and so it could just be a matter of time and attention.
Product quality depends on a lot of things, but in my opinion the country of origin is not one of them. Supervision, quality controls, and care are important. It costs more to make better tools, and some companies don’t care, they’re okay accepting higher defect rates or lower quality, such as uneven heat treatment, cooked grinding, or cheaper base metals.
Attention to detail and worth ethic depends on the company.
A packer at a major American retailer shipped a leaking and moldy box of juice to me. From its condition and thickness of the mold inside the product box, the packer had to have known. But, they’re not paid enough to care, and might have been penalized if they stopped everything to swap it out. Order wood finish from the same company, and it might be shipped by itself in an unpadded plastic envelope. They shipped a box of crushed crab and lobster plant fertilizer with children’s books from a separate order, and it leaked, contaminating the books. And then you have specialty stores that will pack a quart can of finish in a protective carboard box, placing that within another box with adequate protection all around.
One brand’s pliers are made in both Taiwan and China. I compared the two, and surprisingly the ones made in China were marginally better. With proper care and oversight, quality can be independent of country of origin.
I agree with your analysis conceptually, but it’s just not how it shakes out in some cases. You’re absolutely right that most of what goes into a products quality is how much the company cares. There is a lot of variation in this arena. Where I disagree is country of origin not making a difference. In terms of what the product is, I would say it does; especially when you factor in scale. Maintaining quality scaled down is easy, anyone can do that, maintaining quality when fully scaled up is what’s challenging. No one is better equipped for this than China. The best facilities are located there. They simply have scalable manufacturing capabilities that you cannot find in other countries. Especially when factoring in cost. Germany makes fantastic power tools as well, however, both workmanship and BoM cost cannot be matched down to a cost. To build a drill in Germany to the same quality as in PRC in the same category of scale – the German built drill will cost substantially more for the exact same product. It’s not wrong to say you can get any level of quality from and country of origin, but it’s no longer relevant when producing at scale. It’s not even remotely possible.
It’d be interesting to know what percentage of people on this website go to work in a suit and tie carrying a laptop and what percentage are going in a hard hat and carrying their own tools.
I honestly have no idea, I don’t believe in gatekeeping.
Regulars and new visitors come from all kinds of backgrounds.
There are enthusiasts, pros, people who are interested in tools, people that don’t care about tools but need help with purchasing decisions, newbies and apprentices, retirees, engineers, plumbers, electricians, tool brand insiders (for competitive research?), stem club educators, teachers and college professors, high school wood shop teachers, cabinetmakers, US Air Force maintenance techs, auto maintenance techs, hobbyists, and that’s off the top of my head.
Why does it matter?
I have been asked over the years about reader demographics.
I can ask readers, but a small fraction of readers ever comment – which is okay – and so any polling would only reveal the backgrounds of regular commentors.
I wouldn’t say a lot of readers are “suit and tie” folks, but they’re as welcome as anyone else.
I don’t write for any particular audience, I follow my interests. I find industry developments interesting, and they often provide clues as to brands’ directions.
Brands say a lot of things, to media and end users, but it’s also important to look at what they’re doing.
It doesn’t matter generally speaking. However as a Union Millwright that makes a living with my tools and works with many trades we seem to be the only ones flying the flag so to speak. I care where my tools come from because they employ tradespeople to build their facilities. They pay good wages.
Do I have foreign tools, of course. But generally speaking they don’t come from a country that wants us wiped off the map. I will gladly buy European tool and Japanese tools.
It seems to me when people make argument about COO, more and more they don’t seem to care about the country as a whole. Just their own interests.
God, Family, Country.
I forgot to mention. This thread makes me quite happy. I will buy these tools when they are released. I had given up on Milwaukee. Switched to DeWalt.
My employer provides Makita, I don’t use them. However I have noticed many Makita tools made in the US. That also makes me happy.
But based on many of the comments on this thread I’m a dying minority.
I prefer USA-made, and will often pay a little (or a lot) more for for it, usually for quality and features.
The problem is, USA-made vs import is impossible to talk about without some people seeing it as an opportunity for their xenophobic comments.
Part of why I started ToolGuyd is because I was sharing comments and reviews on a forum and entire threads were being deleted due to others’ politically-natured comments.
When it comes to domestic vs import production, what people say you want is important, but brands and retailers pay much more attention to what customers say with their wallets.
Would anyone argue against USA-made tools? Of course not. But a much smaller number of people are actually willing to spend more.
I fall into the minority where I do both. I’m a suit and tablet guy day to day, but have away missions that require some packouts with the supply of personal tools. This is a topic that always draw my attention because the single biggest game changer in the modern history of power tools was globalization. It paved the way for how the manufacturing and distribution pipeline work today. The driving force behind offshoring many years ago was simply cost, it was far cheaper to put retail level tools in the hands’ of end users. Today the reasoning isn’t so simple, but it’s for that former reason that things are in place the way they are today. It’s not nearly as cheap to manufacture in China as it used to be. They have no shortage of in house designs and contract builds that that the market commands. Primarily, companies went their for production originally for cost benefits which also made it a natural choice to build the most state of the art manufacturing facilities. It’s just that over time, the low cost of contract builds got higher, however, the infrastructure was already in place. Today as it stands, China has the best of both worlds. You can get things done for cheap, you can also get things done to a high QC standard with very good consistency, usually not far apart from each other. You have options, which is great for large brands with relatively large product portfolios. Most of the large brands have their own facilities (which are the best ones), but there is also a large market for contract builds, where the goal is less about consistency and more about volume where the name of the game is getting as many products on shelves as fast as possible with a small turnaround time such as in-house store brands. It’s contract builds that tend to feed the negative association with all things Chinese made – but companies that took the time to build their own in-house operations facilities over the years, their quality capability is just a good as anywhere else in the world if not better when fully scaled up.
The Makita plant is just out of Oakwood GA. It was just completed and they are starting to bring stuff in. Not sure what is going to be produced there. My company did work on the project. We were told to only use Makita tools (if they made that tool)
Based on Makita announcements, the new facility seems to be offices, with no public mention or job listings to suggest there will be any tool or accessory production.
Unless they purposefully left this out of press materials and news releases, but USA production is something all brands would pat themselves on the back for at every opportunity.
It’s a 200k-300k SF warehouse, so I’m betting e-commerce based transactions / shipping.
Almost all my stationary tools are from Taiwan. Never disappointed there. A few german tools.
Milwaukee tools from the 70s still going strong.
Ryobi used to build some nice tools until Home Depot latched onto them. Same thing with HD John Deere mowers built to a lower price.
As a specialty woodworker I am open to any brand and have most.
The real deal Milwaukee Tool Corp was bought out somewhere around year 2000 by the same parent that owns Ryobi tools .
They’re definitely a far cry from the tool quality we used to see when fully American owned but for what they are these days the tools are decent .
I loved Milwaukee tools back in the day , they were truly world class.