Milwaukee Tool annual media event

Company refines its digital ONE-KEY system and adds more tools to the cordless job site.

Milwaukee Tool hosted more than 100 print and digital media journalists at the annual New Product Symposium in its hometown, June 7-8. Basically, if a power tool has a cord, Milwaukee Tool intends to find a way to make it cordless and always have the brand on hand whether the work is found in rough-in, construction or retrofit. All of which is not to say the company forgets to innovate the old reliable standbys such as pipe wrenches, pipe cutters and plenty of other hand tools, too. 

Here are just some of the highlights from a very busy day that featured three floors of demos situated in a former hardware warehouse. Plus, if that wasn’t enough for the company to make its case, outside a Sawzall with a new AX recip carbide tooth blade started cutting two-by-fours at 7 a.m. and finished the day making 1,140 cuts on a single blade.

Battery technology

Anyone going cordless needs a strong battery. Milwaukee Tool now offers two lithium-ion choices.

Coming in September, Milwaukee’s 9.0 amp hour High Demand battery uses a total of 15 lithium-ion cells that each produces 3.6 volts and 3.0 amp hours for a total capacity of 162 watt hours.

According to the company, the M18 REDLITHIUM HIGH DEMAND 9.0 battery pack, Milwaukee will deliver up to five times more run-time, provide 35 times more power and run 60 percent cooler than standard lithium-ion batteries. The battery is fully compatible with the entire M18 system.

The company, however, isn’t forgetting about its M12 series. The M12 batteries are receiving an upgrade as well. 

According to the company, a Compact 3.0 battery gives superior run-time without sacrificing weight. Also, a XC6.0 extended capacity battery will allow its M12 products to outperform many 18V solutions. Both promise to deliver three times more run-time, provide 20 percent more power and last twice as long compared to standard lithium-ion batteries. (The new M12 batteries will be available in August.)

ONE-KEY refinements

The big news last year was the launch of ONE-KEY, a digital platform for tools and equipment that uses a custom-built cloud-based program to track, monitor and control-enabled equipment.

This year, the company expanded the platform’s capabilities to include enhanced tool security, which will allow users to lock and unlock their tools, limit tool access and completely customize security settings. When the tool is rendered “locked” by the user, it will be useless when stolen, deterring theft. Users will also be able to track missing tools using GPS. Once recovered, you can easily reactivate them again.

Generally speaking, the improvements can be broken down into three categories:

Tool tracking: The tracking feature allows users to identify where and when their ONE-KEY compatible tools were last seen. Tool records and locations are updated when any device with the ONE-KEY app comes within 100 feet of a ONE-KEY compatible tool, allowing the user to pinpoint missing tools quicker. Milwaukee is the first to integrate tool tracking technology directly into tools, allowing them to be tracked with or without an M18 battery attached.

That’s right: Even if the battery is removed, and internal tool battery will keep looking for an app to ping its location for up to a year and a half. The company says more than 1,000 ONE-KEY-enabled tools have been recovered since this update in March, including two tools leading to the recovery of $20,000 worth of stolen property and the arrest of the thief after the bad guy downloaded the app.

Inventory management: Accessible through the web and mobile app, simplified tool & equipment management creates a central place for users to manage all their tools and equipment across a network of jobs and operators. This free-to-use platform allows companies to keep detailed records of each tool, even non-Milwaukee brands, all in one place. A recently released user experience update allows for improved organization of tool lists and gives users the ability to generate reports on tool spend, tool allocation and inventory audits.

Tool security: The tool tracking and inventory management features are live now. Coming in October, the tool security feature is what will let users lock and unlock their tools, limit access to their tools and completely customize security settings. Once tool security is enabled, and the tool is locked it will be rendered useless when stolen.

M18 Fuel Sawzall

On a related note, the company’s stalwart Sawzall gets an interesting upgrade thanks to ONE-KEY.

Yes, all the improvements mentioned above are part of the new Sawzall, but ONE-KEY can generate blade suggestions based on the type of material and its thickness, and optimize the cutting experience per the task at hand.

The company effectively demonstrated the value of the idea by pitting a ONE-KEY-enabled Sawzall against a regular Sawzall, each equipped with the same metal-cutting blade on stainless steel piping. The latter quickly burnt the blade out going at full power. 

With ONE-KEY, however, the same blade easily made a complete cut through the same pipe and lived another day.

According to the company, ONE-KEY control promises not only faster cuts, but also significantly more cuts per blade depending, of course, on the type and dimensions of the pipe.

Plumbing solutions

At the start of the day, the media were broken into various groups and began the tour at various different demos. We got the best of the lot since not only were we the vaunted red team, the official colors of Milwaukee Tool, we began our day at the plumbing solutions demo.

We actually got our first glimpse of Milwaukee’s cordless, portable drain snake at an Uponor customer convention in Las Vegas this past spring. 

The new M12 Drain Snake is developed specifically for the challenges plumbers encounter when cleaning fixtures and small drain lines. The product features a unique design that incorporates a fixed shield around the drum, eliminating the potential for the spinning drum to come in contact with the fixture or user. The simple cordless setup of the M12 Drain Snake frees users from the hassle of wrestling with cords, carrying extension cords or spending time looking for outlets.

For easier cable feed, users can rest the tool on its flat base, freeing up a hand, which is typically used to hold the tool. Weighing in at 10 pounds, the drain snake is also the lightest 2-1/2-inch drain line machine. The tool’s proprietary drum shield and light weight make it the easiest hand machine for overhead, below the waist, and confined space use.

Milwaukee says it will also launch a line of drain cables compatible with the drain snake and other professional drain cleaning machines. Capable of carrying power all the way through the end, and with the ability to maneuver the tightest bends, the new drain cables are the best mix of strength and flexibility. In addition, the cables’ solid polymer core will not rust.

Next up was the M18 transfer pump that can pump 450 gallons of water per hour. The self-priming pump eliminates extra steps during set-up and lets users get to their repairs faster. A sensor also knows when to stop the job allowing a contractor to go about the job without one more worry. (The pump is available in October.)

The new M18 FORCE LOGIC press tool, available in October, comes in 25 percent lighter and 3/4-inch shorter than its predecessor. The jaws can be opened with one hand and the brushless motor improves power and run-time. According to the company, the new model is 10 percent faster than other similar tools on the market and offers 20 percent more run-time per charge.

While much of what we saw that day was cordless, a couple of items on display at our first stop showed the detail Milwaukee Tool takes even for the humble hand tool.
Take, for example, the new cooper tubing cutters, available in October, specifically designed for close quarters. The “mini” cutters feature the same quality chrome rollers and weep holes to let out water that are featured in the larger cutters already on the market. The chrome and weep holes promise less corrosion and, thus, a longer life. 

The Cheater, a handy adaptable pipe wrench, was released last year. But this year, the company released a full line of all-new steel and aluminum pipe wrenches.

Finally, a couple of years ago, the company introduced its Torque Lock adjustment system to a line of pliers that improved on the adjustment mechanism that made thumb adjustments easier while also allowing for a screwdriver when users really needed the extra bite. This year, the company added to the line of 22 clamps and pliers, including the new MaxBite Locking Pliers.

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