Skilled trades are one of the toughest fields to work in, albeit one whose importance can never be ignored. Every person, at some point in time, requires a skilled trade professional to maintain infrastructures like homes, schools, roads, and hospitals. Without skilled trade professionals, the lights don’t stay on.
The jobsite hazards coupled with the long and strenuous hours of physical work capacity required for these jobs have created a wide gap in the supply and demand of skilled labor. To help close the critical gaps of safety and productivity on the jobsite, Milwaukee Tool has embraced a culture of disruptive innovation that has helped drive new solutions in unexpected ways, and their approach deserves a closer look.
A plethora of engineering opportunities
The Wisconsin-based company is a manufacturer of jobsite solutions and is obsessed with improving the quality of life and work for skilled trade professionals. Investing in the latest technologies and techniques to help solve complex engineering challenges, their teams are developing the most technologically advanced batteries, motors, electronics, and software solutions in the construction industry. Every day their engineering teams face the challenge of packing large power density into small, portable power tools – it’s not an easy feat.
• Custom Designed Motors: Power and intelligence can effectively coexist thanks to the custom motor engineering that is a key component of power tools at Milwaukee Tool. Each motor is custom-built to minimize space and maximize power. These motors tend to be more power-dense than the motors in many electric vehicles.
• REDLITHIUM™ Batteries & Chargers: Milwaukee Tool invented the technology to utilize lithium-ion in power tools, and ever since, a cordless revolution has taken place across jobsites around the globe. The company designs its lithium-ion batteries entirely in-house, and teams of engineers are routinely developing battery packs that can put out more power and withstand the wide variety of harsh conditions present on the jobsite.
• Robust Communications: Engineers are further enhancing cordless power tool performance by developing advanced electronics communications packages for Milwaukee’s power tools. These enhanced electronic communication packages allow for safer and smarter tools and unique, never-before-seen features.
• ONE-KEY™ Wireless Connectivity: Milwaukee Tool brings connectivity to the jobsite in order to allow users access to rich data on their tool. In-house software, firmware, and hardware teams are continuing to enhance and innovate the industry with jobsite connectivity.
Innovation manifested in tools
Necessity, as they say, is the mother of all invention. For over a decade, Milwaukee Tool has taken a meticulous approach to discovering the pain points on job sites to fully understand users’ frustrations. The incorporation of new-to-market technologies has helped resolve them. Let’s take a look at a few examples:
Tackling gas engines:
Milwaukee Tool’s patented lithium-ion battery technology has taken the skilled trade industry by storm, extending the capabilities of cordless technologies to new heights. However, until recently, these benefits have eluded light construction equipment like jackhammers, cut-off saws, and core drills.
The MX FUEL system was one of the most challenging projects engineering teams at Milwaukee Tool faced, especially from an electronics standpoint. Design teams needed to incorporate immense power and full digital communication into a product that could not only survive the harsh conditions of the jobsite but was a scalable solution that delivered results at an acceptable size, the luxury of space for components was at an all-time premium.
Professionals using the equipment have greatly eliminated gas emissions on their jobsites and have reduced considerable noise and vibration issues - helping to manage preventable deaths and injuries and protect their bodies. Another great example of Milwaukee Tool challenging the status quo through disruption.
Drilling is one of the most common applications on the jobsite. The skilled trades often experience their drills binding up during some applications. The drill bit can become bound in material while the drill itself, held onto by the user, continues to supply power and run at full speed. A bound drill can result in serious injury to the user.
Mechanical solutions to prevent binding are implemented but come with limitations. In order to prevent the sometimes-fatal kickback from bound drills and avoid limitations on a solution, Milwaukee Tool utilized a machine learning algorithm.
Using this algorithm to collect various data points such as the speed and acceleration of the motor, machine learning teams were able to provide a drill with the ability to recognize when it is bound and stop before the user can react, preventing injuries. This is just the first of many ways the company’s teams of engineers are harnessing machine learning and artificial intelligence in solutions.
Milwaukee Tool prides itself on the ability to bring disruptive innovation to fruition. They are continually adding more onboard intelligence to their products, very similar to a smartphone.
Milwaukee Tool leads the industry in scalable jobsite enterprise solutions, thanks to the use of Bluetooth technology. Designed in-house, the company has integrated IoT seamlessly into the construction industry via ONE-KEY™ — a comprehensive system for construction inventory management. ONE-KEY™ products create a smarter job site and provide users with a smart tool.
ONE-KEY™ also allows the users greater visibility over a project via community tracking and alerts. Apart from tracking, it also provides features such as security and logging; thanks to novel sensor application techniques, users can manage equipment and transfer data from a tool to a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
How does Milwaukee Tool overcome obstacles?
Disruptive innovation is all about challenging the status quo, and for Milwaukee, it involves a completely outside-in approach. Instead of making assumptions about what their users need or trying to make a tool ‘better’ or ‘more powerful,’ Milwaukee does what their competitors do not – they ditch the boardroom and get out on the jobsite to stand toe-to-toe with the professional trades.
Their teams learn from their users and work to understand the challenges they encounter during their day. Once these needs are understood, Milwaukee completely rethinks a solution with new-to-world technology and unparalleled levels of design and engineering. The end result? New technologies that change the game. Milwaukee® continues to fuel this innovation by pairing these user experiences with new technology.
Milwaukee's attitude of innovate or die and its laser focus on the trades have firmly positioned the company as a leader, with more than 585,000 hours spent on jobsites with users and more than 1,500 patents filed in the U.S. in the last decade.
Every challenge is approached with a one-team mentality. While working to develop a new electronic clutching system, the embedded systems, firmware, and mechanical engineers worked alongside one another to build out a robust motor, sensor, and algorithm.
Teams at Milwaukee Tool are routinely working together to create smaller and lighter solutions that fit into the palm of your hand.
A peek into the future
Over the last decade, the company has experienced incredible employee growth globally and currently employs more than 10,000 people in the United States. As the company continues to pursue advancements in productivity and safety on the jobsite, it recently opened a 70,000 sq. ft Engineering Design and Innovation space in Chicago.
This new space has 10,000 sq. ft of dedicated lab space for the research and development of various tools and systems. True to the company’s cross-functional, collaborative culture, this space will be home to multiple disciplines within their Engineering Team, including Embedded Systems, Firmware, Power Electronics, Systems and Mechanical Engineers, PCB Designers, and Project Leaders.
As days pass, the company is continuously investing in making the skilled trades industry a better place to work.
If you wish to make job sites safer and more productive for trade professionals, you can partner with Milwaukee Tool, working for a greater cause.