Grit Nation

Milwaukee Tools - Heavy Duty Edition - Justin Ross

August 02, 2022 Justin Ross - Milwaukee Tools Episode 37
Grit Nation
Milwaukee Tools - Heavy Duty Edition - Justin Ross
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to Grit Nation, I’m Joe Cadwell the host of the show and today I will be talking with the national account manager for Milwaukee Tools, Justin Ross. 

Milwaukee Tools has been a leader in the construction industry since 1924, and they continue to develop innovative solutions that deliver increased productivity and unparalleled durability for building trades professionals. 

Josh and I will open our conversation by discussing the history of the company, starting with their iconic Sawzall and later we’ll learn how Milwaukee has grown over the last century to become the largest supplier of cordless tools in North America. 

Next, we’ll discuss how Milwaukee’s early adoption and investment in the Lithium-Ion battery platform spurred a revolution in cordless power tools and why these advances not only increase productivity and safety on the jobsite but are good for the environment too. 

Later Josh will explain the research and development process of designing new products to meet industry demands and how Milwaukee’s in-house engineers work collaboratively with building trade professionals to find solutions for typical jobsite pain points. 

And well wrap up our conversation by learning about Milwaukee’s unmatched commitment to the future of construction with their generous support of building trades apprenticeship programs.

The Show Notes

Milwaukee Tools
https://www.milwaukeetool.com/

Milwaukee Apprentice Program - GRID
https://www.milwaukeetool.com/Grid/Contact

NW Carpenters Union
United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Regional Council in the Pacific Northwest

Image Pointe Printing
Union Printers based in Waterloo Iowa

Union Home Plus
Union Home Plus helps union members save money when they buy, sell, or finance their home.

Visit our webpage
https://www.gritnationpodcast.com

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Email Grit Nation:
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Joe Cadwell:

Welcome to Grit Nation. I'm Joe Cadwell, the host of the show, and today I'll be talking with National Account Manager for Milwaukee Tools. Justin Ross. Milwaukee Tools has been a leader in the construction industry since 1924. And they continue to develop innovative solutions that deliver increased productivity and unparalleled durability for building trades professionals. Josh and I will open our conversation by discussing the history of the company, starting with their iconic saws all And later, we'll learn how Milwaukee has grown over the last century to become the largest supplier of cordless tools in North America. Next, we'll discuss how Milwaukee's early adoption and investment in the lithium ion battery platform spurred a revolution in cordless power tools, and why these advances not only increased productivity and safety on the job, but they're good for the environment too. Later, Josh will explain the research and development process of designing new products to meet industry demands, and how Milwaukee's in house engineers work collaboratively with building trades professionals to find solutions for typical jobsite pain points. Then we'll wrap up our conversation by learning about Milwaukee's unmatched commitment to the future of construction with their generous support of building trades apprenticeship programs. To learn more about Milwaukee Tools, be sure to check out the show notes for this episode, or visit the grit nation podcast website at grit nation podcast.com. And now on to the show. Justin Ross, welcome to Grit Nation.

Justin Ross:

Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

Joe Cadwell:

Yeah, thank you, Justin, for taking your time to be on the show today. I'm really excited to be talking with you. And learning more about Milwaukee Tools. I understand you're the National Account Manager for Milwaukee Tools. And how did you get into that position Justin?

Justin Ross:

I've been in the industry about over 25 years now graduated college and got into a distribution for actually plumbing and then found my way the tool business and I've been at it ever since and then with walkie going on like around three years right about now. And it's just been been pretty amazing. The company itself is just outstanding to work for like it's a great place. The people the culture, the the tools, everything about it just makes it outstanding.

Joe Cadwell:

Yeah, I know Milwaukee Tools are definitely an industry standard. They're highly coveted by our carpenter apprentices here at PNC i The Pacific Northwest carpenters Institute in Portland, Oregon and across the nation obviously. How long is Milwaukee been in the tool business?

Justin Ross:

That's actually we're coming up on 100 year anniversary 1924 things when don't I think that's exactly right around there with walkie first got into the business but started out way back when with the saws off. I think you familiar with that phrase that's a Milwaukee saw. And that was kind of our into the market. So I was I was whole shooters drills. And then just from there, it just kept expanding to what we are right now.

Joe Cadwell:

And you definitely have a plethora of tools out there. I'm sure we're gonna get into those in a little bit. But the origins of the company are they from Milwaukee? Kind of a very basic question there Milwaukee tool

Justin Ross:

start Yes, sir. Actually headquartered here, still in Brookfield, Wisconsin, we do have operations all over. You know, from a company standpoint, we're expanding our footprint. We're growing like the like throwing tomorrow. So basically, right now the of the day we're running out of space to house all these engineers were hired to come help develop the next latest and greatest and tools. And so we've expanded our footprint quite a bit. So our headquarters still based in Brookfield, Wisconsin, which from walk has always been we've expanded downtown Milwaukee took up a space downtown Milwaukee to move some of our team down there and we're looking to actually house them out in more out in Brookfield as well we just can't stop growing at the end of the day. Like we just need the space to house all these people to design these tools.

Joe Cadwell:

Right and and so going back to the origins of the company, the saws all you say was sort of their first tool that they they designed and and who

Justin Ross:

knows, oh, I wish I knew that guy. And then the solids I mean there right now other companies got a call there's a recept saw. But when you say sighs all you know, they're talking about a Milwaukee saza. So just the brand is the image kind of whatever is known as resub size or the size all so to speak, is a staple. And that's one of our crowning moments. Right? There's that launch of that. And then just expanding into what we are nowadays with the cordless market like the innovation behind all the cordless tools we're launching nowadays. We don't have walkie we really don't launch any tools that work on a cord. Our focus is cordless. You know, the main thing for us right now is that you're seeing a lot of customers are adapting to a cordless platform. And the reason being is that it's just it's a safer platform as well because you're not having cords trip hazards, you know Things on sites, a missions. That's the big thing with our launch of the MX product line, which is our equipment line, we're going to our mission. So before we were focusing on getting cords off the job site, now we're kind of transitioning over to a gas, anything with a combustion engine, and right now we're trying to get that off the site, because the end of the day, you know, combustion engines emissions on a job site or not great for the workers. So we're looking for ways to help to make these sites safer and more productive.

Joe Cadwell:

That sounds great. And I imagine a lot of this transition to the handheld cordless tools. A lot of that revolves around advances in battery technology. And, you know, in layman's terms, who are what are some of those more significant strides that have been made in cordless tools over the last few years?

Justin Ross:

Well, if you look back about 2010, that's what the indices for saw shift. Were Nikhat and I grew up I was a carpenter. I spent my summers to work through college, framing and houses we had a little little cordless nightcap batteries, that was that was cutting edge. Everything was corded, though, you know, it was carpeting was corded in about 2010. Milwaukee was the first to market with a product called lithium ion, which is now everywhere. But at the time it was it was new to the market. You know, nobody heard of it. And the kind of unsure in Milwaukee went full bore all chips in on that product, and built a platform off that lithium ion. And we surpassed everybody else and started to gain market share because of the monitor tools we're launching in that platform. So from a lithium ion standpoint, we have three different platforms, we have the 12 volt and 12. The MA teen and the MX the MX is our new line has talked about this, let's focus on the gas, you know combustion engines so to speak. So emissions but those lines I mean, we have two over 200 tools, I believe in both 12 volt as well as 18 volts. So we find, you know what makes sense what platform can that tool operate on and be efficient and complete the project that the task at hand. And from there, we kind of we build the tool around the on the battery, so the battery is all interchangeable, or 18 volt platform, you could take a battery or tool from 10 years ago, we first launched lithium ion, that 80 volt battery is going to slide right on there and work for it.

Joe Cadwell:

That's amazing. And so taking the volts volts basically drive the power. So for someone who's in the building trades, they're looking obviously you're going with the 18 volt, maybe a homeowner would be more in the 1218 category, depending on what type of work they're doing.

Justin Ross:

Well, you'd be you'd be actually surprised that the 12 volt is actually done very well service. And myself personally around my house, you're right 12 volts, all I have at all I need. I do have the 18 volt because I have the luxury of working for a phenomenal company that allows me to have those tools. But at the end of the day, for example, a 12 volt impact wrench is got I can't remember the over the footpath of Twitter feed three and a foot pounds on a 12 volt. So driving lags like me my wife just moved on last October when I started hanging the lag bolts for the TVs around the house, I could use a little 12 volt to drive those legs. And it was it was performing outperforming what I thought I would do. So it's kind of amazing how you get that compact power. It's a little little tool. But at the end of the day, it's all about you know, it's just the task at hand. And 18 volt is definitely more geared towards the construction trades the users. I mean, they're looking for longer run time because anybody knows on the trades right now Time is money. And so guys switching out batteries, you know throughout the day, it's it's time it's money, getting off the lift, going to the charger, grab a new battery going back up and lift our goal right now and that's where we have a platform of batteries that go from a two amp hour up to a 12 amp hour and that's just a bigger gas tank longer run time for the tool for the for the battery. That doesn't it it also helps them improve the performance of the actual tool.

Joe Cadwell:

Right And full disclosure for anyone who's listening right now I personally am a huge fan of the Milwaukee tool line. I saw the the innovation and the advances in technology. Some years ago I actually want to contest Justin that got me the MA T charging station and radio. And at that point it was just game on I won this this awesome. I think it was $250 radio and charging station. I look back talking about the cordless tools and yeah, I have a I think it was the 75th edition of that Milwaukee saws all it was a special box and chrome outline on it and it's still in my shed and that thing's still kicking butt so I'm a big fan. With that said I don't know much about the the MX fuel system. I know the twelves in the 80s What can you tell us about the max.

Justin Ross:

So the MX we launched two years ago and then at the time we launched I think it was eight different tools. There's a tower light there's a 14 inch concrete saw drum machine for a sewer the power pack so like basically the go up against like a little Honda and Honda generator, you know the 2000 watt generator as well as now we've saved that line and we've actually expand it even more. So we've launched a backpack vibrator a Viber St. Get Larry to launch a suitcase, suitcase vibrator. And I've seen the product road. And I gotta tell you that it's pretty amazing. It's certain thing, and I did concrete as well. So when I was doing houses, I also did concrete for two years. And so I remember a lot of these tools, were using the head to be gas operated, we're sitting down there doing a pour in the basement, and then also the engine dies and you're sitting there trying to get the things back started up and doesn't work. The nice thing about this platform with the MX we have the runtime to do these things in this commercial grade. This is not just for residential for guys porn basements for guys porn drive, this is this is meant for larger pores, it can keep up the issue is not a power standpoint. It's just a cycling through so the battery will hold up for for a lot of the pores, bigger pores, but they have the option to switch out the batteries but there's no downtime, there's no gas, you know, run out of gas, find the gas cans, filling it back up having gasped all over the place. It's a pretty it's pretty amazing process

Joe Cadwell:

and, and the byproduct that combustion engine, you were talking about having a gas generator, you know, fumes, certain limitations there, now you're running extension cords if you're going to keep those generators outside the building, and it definitely complicates things and someone comes along and unplugs a machine or runs out of gas, like you say so huge innovations.

Justin Ross:

And we also look for safety. So we launched a core drill to go along with this in core drill. As anyone knows, on a jobsite, it's probably the most dangerous tool out there guys have been flipped off ladders sorted to the walls. Mars has a clutch built into it. So you can take one finger polish, it's the best oral the Conqueror this last year, we got his attention by walking by and all you do is pull that finger pull the trigger and see the thing flip and go back to its resting place it would clutch out because it didn't have control and safety feature like that. And then a breaker shocks under the breaker as well. So we launched the cordless breaker. So you have to worry about you know, running cords and our hydraulics. And the breakers got shocks built in this whole entire unit is actually the vibrations. The biggest thing with the knuckles, like when I was doing concrete, you know, we'd rotate guys through who could do the breaker for so long before your hands or just be tingling, chan with the shocks that kind of absorbs, so it takes away all that vibration. So that's a big change in the industry right now is looking for ways to make these things safer and more productive for the user.

Joe Cadwell:

And who's helping to do this? Where do you get your your feedback, in order to encourage your engineers to consider these design concepts.

Justin Ross:

We rely heavily on our partners. And what I mean by a partner is somebody who's who's working with us buying our tools, we go to them. And that's where we get our inspiration from it's we have probably, I've been this industry I said 20 plus years and I have never seen the kind of brain power we have some of the smartest guys I've seen working on these things we're looking for the next best thing mean that things that I've never thought would be cordless, I've seen ideas drops, this is what's going to happen. And the team that they work on that but what they do is they take a concept take an idea, they go out to a customer say what are your pain points? What are your pain points on this project? You know, what do you hear that's cordless or hydraulic that you want to see operate and cordless and they and they give us a feedback. And from there we go back to the drawing board. We go back inside we try to create that product and we design it. We have rapid prototyping up in Brookfield we can actually turn out a tool a mock up in a day. I mean, it's it's pretty impressive. And but from there, we build it around that and then we do the research to make sure it makes sense and and what are the pain points? Or we can go after some stuff that's already out there. Like what are your pain points with this unit you have right now currently, what can we do to make it better? We find ways to improve upon that. I mean you anybody can do a me too product. But one of the things that walk is we're the industry leader when it comes to these things. We're always looking for ways to innovate and disrupt. That's one of the best things about this company is we're not looking for ways to innovate during but we're also looking to disrupt. We want people going, oh my gosh, I can't believe they came out with that. And that's reaction we're going for we launched some new tools like and I see some of these things. And I'm like, No way can't do it. And it happens. And like I said, it's I've been doing this for a long time not only ever use these tools, but I've sold them for quite a while it blows me away.

Joe Cadwell:

This episode of grit nation is proudly supported by the carpenters local 271 based in Eugene, Oregon. Thanks to their generosity, the hard working men and women of the local 271 canal sport and official I've got grit high visibility t shirt. This us made garment is produced by image point of Waterloo, Iowa, and features the American flag and the newly designed grit nation logo. I have to say it looks really sharp. I'm pleased as punch to have their support. If your local business or organization is interested in collaborating with grit nation, the building trades podcast, I'd be happy to hear from you. Grit nation is proud to support those who support the blue collar trades people of America and Canada. And now back to the show. Yeah, that is fantastic that you can solicit input from the professionals in the field, the building trades professionals, you can turn it to your engineers you have an r&d you can put these prototypes out you can test them and then I assume get feedback on your testing and then put in full scale production once everything's been vetted out so that is That is, that is pretty fantastic. So advances in battery advances and just sort of the concept of how we develop tools and, and really, again soliciting input from the, from the industry professionals to help you get to where you are, as really, I think driven home for me, especially as someone who's in education, I work at the Pacific Northwest carpenters Institute, a regional training center for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, the UBC, we've been a organization for over 140 years bettering the lives of our members, but we are the carpenters union. And it wasn't that long ago that we received a very generous donation from Milwaukee Tools in support our program to help put Milwaukee tools in the hands of our carpenter apprentices. And why this embrace of, of the apprenticeships, the building trade apprenticeships from Milwaukee Tools.

Justin Ross:

Well, at the end of the day, it all starts with the apprentice, that's who's learning to use these tools. And our goal right now is to get in front and part of these guys and to make sure that they know what's out there latest and greatest. But they also I mean, full disclosure, that the fact they're going to train on a tool, they're going to realize that, you know, the see the advantages of what a Milwaukee tool can do five minutes, but they're gonna gravitate towards when they go out in the field. But we're very strong supporters of all and it's not just with the UPC, we cover all the different trades are very, very strong presence and all the different training centers that have because we realized that's the future. That's where, you know, the future like now with a lot of things that I do, I'm actually part of some stuff where, you know, education, like we're trying to get the younger generation to come into the trades right now that is probably one of the biggest things we face as a challenge is that how do you convince a kid like, Hey, you don't need to go to college for four years and I've had discussion with a few of my nephews friends that don't you know, they're in limbo, they don't want to go if they want to go to college and I'm like, Guys, the trades wear it out. But you have to get into a trade. You know, you gotta go to the training to become an apprentice, you got to get involved and in long term, it's, it's a great it's a great career. But the problem right now is we're finding these guys that want to want to go to because the schools are teaching them you gotta go off to a four year degree. Now you don't have to, you know, the trades you can have a great career and traits where you really

Joe Cadwell:

absolutely and that is if you've listened to the show before for those who are listening to the show now, you're aware that you know a big part of grit nation the building trades podcast is to shine a positive light on lucrative careers in the building trades where you don't have to commit yourself to a four year long program of college or university and up you know, 6080 $120,000 or more behind the eight ball before even work your first day on the job. These construction apprenticeships oftentimes are you walk away debt free you earn as you learn and you walk away with a skill set that can't be rendered obsolete overnight. can't be outsourced to a another nation where they're just going to do the work for pennies on the dollar. The work that is being done here in the US and Canada is done by skilled labor and people that can you know, put those tools like Milwaukee is developing into the hands of skilled professionals can definitely contribute to the infrastructural and generational wealth of the nation. We build the school houses we build the the factories, the stadiums, the courthouses, those educational institutions, so I can't say enough about it. Obviously, they're just

Justin Ross:

I feel the same way. Big firm believer and I like I said, I I spent my college career you know, working in the trade so I kind of actually funny story, I'm actually almost did not go back, my final year is gonna do concrete. And then my back went out and I realized I'm like, okay, maybe the trades not ferment for me. And I ended up finishing my degree in but I got blessed the fact that I was able to work in industry that focuses on what I love construction. And full disclosure, I learned a great trade. So like right now I've saved myself 1000s of dollars over the years by doing a lot of things myself. From the skill set I've learned from these different living from the crafts, so

Joe Cadwell:

yeah, absolutely. And having that ability, that skill set to work around the house work around friends places.

Justin Ross:

Yeah, I don't wanna work for a friend's place anymore. I have a hard enough time keeping up my own house.

Joe Cadwell:

So Milwaukee's embrace of the apprenticeships, the apprentices has sort of manifested itself into something called the grid program, GRI D program, what can you tell us about the grid program?

Justin Ross:

So the grid program is is basically one more touch point for us with the apprentice. So the apprentices sign up, they're getting communications from us about new product launches, Promotions we have come in so we have we do promotional blitz once in a while. So it's it goes right to that apprentice, saying, hey, you know, buy XYZ get this for free, things of that nature. And it just keeps them in the loop on what's going on with walkie so it's really just another touch point for them to stay in loop and to get that information before they read it online. And it's just a it's a good way to have that interaction with them.

Joe Cadwell:

And so for an apprentice, they just simply have to google grid program and or go straight to Milwaukee Tools walk

Justin Ross:

util.com Yep, yes, sir.

Joe Cadwell:

Now, right

Justin Ross:

work with multiple local training centers have a contact that they can work with to to help navigate them through that.

Joe Cadwell:

Yeah, for sure. I've noticed we've we've at the training center where I work out, we've definitely started embracing those banners and posters and, and again, having the generous support of Milwaukee Tools, having the actual tools in our apprentices hands makes a big difference. So the future of Milwaukee Tools, you know, we talk about innovation, and I know you there's some things that are proprietary, and you're probably not at liberty to talk about, but what what do you see the next step? Is it? Is it going to be an innovation, longer lasting battery? Is there going to be something a market that maybe is untapped? yet? I do know that I have two Milwaukee yard tools, I've got a great weed eater. And in a leaf blower, both cordless and man, those things are just incredibly powerful and long lasting. But what what other industries or what other innovations do you think Milwaukee is going to be in the next few years,

Justin Ross:

I think you're gonna see a lot more coming from us when it comes to that MX platform. So more, you know, gas operated equipment style stuff, I mean, there's no end of what we're gonna do with this, with those batteries and the performance. So I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes, you know, they give me a glimpse of what six months out usually looks like to a year. And some of the things I've seen just, this just makes me smile, because I know it's going to change the industry. And it's going to change for the better. At the end of the day. I mean, we see like the automotive industry switching towards electric vehicles. And so a lot of these these plants are being built right now to make these batteries for these electric vehicles. And they want the same thing they want a cleaner job a cleaner environment. So they're going to the emission free with with MX line, and it's been great for us.

Joe Cadwell:

I also know that Milwaukee is not just singular Milwaukee has some other companies under their corporate umbrella is Empire levels. One of those Justin

Justin Ross:

Yes, sir. So we own empire levels. And we also install Leto, which is like that, this framing hammer, we also have some layout with that as far as like a pry bars and such nature. But Milwaukee is and then on the Empire we have the speed squares, we have the caution tape and things of that nature. But Milwaukee is like in our in our portfolio, we have a lot of these products is just some of these things we do have, like I said of the Empire lineup with the tape and things of that nature. Sure. That's, that's all made right here in Wisconsin, actually, by the way, I've toured the facility up there, we actually are, in that same plant, we're making a lot of the Empire tools, we've actually bought production here for helmets, you know, the big thing right now on job sites is going to that class two, or class one climbing style helmet, because of side impacts, you know, a hard hat on a guy falls off, and they're still gonna have side impact. And these helmets are helping to change that. And so we've done that we brought that back here in house into Wisconsin, able to fully customize these helmets and get them put out in two to three weeks.

Joe Cadwell:

And is that under the Milwaukee brand as well,

Justin Ross:

that's Milwaukee, that's 100% walkie same thing with vest customization up there as well. So we're doing a lot of stuff here in our home state. And it's I've seen the production of these things, and it's pretty impressive the helmets themselves. You know, it's, it's, it's gonna, it's a lot of guys that have adapted adopted it on site because of the safety. It's, oh, that's gonna get there. And it has to because the end of the day, like the side, the side impacts, you know, guys falling in the side. It's a big issue. And so we need to see that, you know, a safer, safer future for the project for these job sites.

Joe Cadwell:

Yeah, safer for the for the folks doing the work. And obviously, it's going to cut down on liability for for the contractors for the customers. And again, emerging trends, just like the innovation and tools, we have had some pretty significant cultural shifts towards safety in the building trades and everybody wants to go home to the to the family at the end of the day is good to shape or better than than when they showed up that morning. So just this has been a fantastic conversation if people are interested in finding out more about Milwaukee Tools, or perhaps the grid program. Again, if you're an apprentice listening, where would they go to

Justin Ross:

go to Milwaukee tools.com. And then also to with their local depending what training center at reach out find who your local representatives, we have trading center reps who work throughout the United States, as well as my local GC team so they can work with them as well to help navigate through that.

Joe Cadwell:

All right, well, Justin Ross, thank you so much for taking your time to be on the show today. It's been a real pleasure.

Justin Ross:

I appreciate it, sir. Thanks for having us.

Joe Cadwell:

My guest today has been Justin Ross from Milwaukee Tools. For more information to help you dive deeper into the subject. Be sure to check out the show notes for this episode, or visit the grit nation website. For more information about for more information to help you dive deeper into the subject, be sure to check out the show notes for this episode, visit the grip nation podcast website at rich nation podcast.com. As always, thanks for listening. And until next time, this is Joe Cadwell reminding you to work safe to work smarter and stay union strong. Yeah, I only became aware that you guys had Empire levels because I went to shop the other day and I'm like, that's made in the USA. That might be a good story. I should talk to the Empire level guys and the more I dug up, I'm talking to Justin next week, sir