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Review: A mind-boggling array of innovations from Milwaukee Tool


If you haven’t yet cut the cord on tools you’re using around your farm, you’re getting left behind. Milwaukee Tool made that clear at its New Product Symposium as it showcased its fifth year of Fuel power-pack technology and dove ever deeper into a world where power and versatility can play side-by-side.

The biggest step forward was with the introduction of the Red Lithium High Demand 9.0 battery pack, which is being integrated into nearly two dozen new products this year. Working within the framework of the already-popular M18 line, the new pack blends strength (35 percent more power), duration (up to five times the run time many people are used to), and safety (running cooler) over standard lithium-ion batteries. The applications on commercial farming operations are countless when applied to a workshop or barn environment or to what’s done in the field. A simple example is that the 9.0 battery on a circular saw can cut a 2×4 board 500 times on a single charge.

The toolmaker did what it set out to do with this system, which is let users do more work per charge with more power and be compatible with previous systems. The M18 system is being expanded into yard-maintenance tools, such as leaf blowers and string trimmers, both of which pack the punch we’ve gotten used to with gasoline-powered products (without the hassle of the maintenance gas engines require). Marching to the drumbeat of cordless products needing to be comfortably portable, elements such as brushless motors and motor placement, as well as solid construction, give many of these new devices a distinct market advantage.

For a company that prides itself on its proprietary battery, electronics, and motor technology, the New Product Symposium went far beyond the 9.0 pack.


One-Key systems

Remember that first time you found out that your tools were as smart as you are? It’s even possible right now is that time. Milwaukee Tool’s One-Key digital platform uses a cloud-based program to connect with the electronic chip in select tools. This allows you to customize how they’re used, to track their location, and to provide security. Think of it as being able to tell a Sawzall ahead of time that it’s going to be used on cutting wood rather than metal – the saw then knows how to adapt for the texture of its target. Or that a tool will be ready with the appropriate torque and speed settings for a particular task.

One-Key was launched last year, but it was merely a tool-management device; new for 2016 is the tool-control and security components. It’s revolutionary – there’s no other way to say it. The One-Key system creates more than a 1:1 connection with a tool through its vast customization and profile settings and wireless updates made even after the product’s purchase. Not to mention being able to check, before you leave your house, whether you left your power drill in your barn, your truck, or your neighbor’s house. (The location features are integrated into Google Maps.)

For those with larger farming operations and seasonal workers, the One-Key system also has an integrated dashboard that can be accessed via app or desktop computer.


Lighting solutions

Whether staying late into the night to monitor the birth of an animal, having the vet come out for a midnight farm call, or making repairs to the tines on a tiller long after the sun sets, you’ll need to see what you’re doing. Proper lighting is critical.

At Milwaukee Tool’s lighting department, the three “R”s don’t stand for reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. Rather, they are the Rover, Radius, and Rocket. This series of easy-to-position battery-operated lights can light up a barn on the darkest and stormiest of days, without having to rely on an outlet or a generator.

A little bit about them:

  • Rover: These M12 compact flood lights use proprietary reflectors to enhance their beams, and they don’t generate the heat that we see from halogen lights. These lights operate for anywhere from 4.5 to 19 hours on a single charge (depending on the setting) and have a versatile array of clamps, magnets, and hooks for positioning.
  • Radius: This LED compact site light projects as much as 4400 lumens on the highest of three brightness settings. It casts light in a 360-degree radius, and it is compatible with the One-Key system for adjusting brightness and directionality. Oh, go ahead and drop a bowling ball on it. It’s that durable.
  • Rocket: This tower light can be used via battery or AC power, and can be set up and positioned in just a couple of seconds. It, like the other lights, uses what the company calls TrueView High Definition Output, which improves the accuracy of the color represented on a particular surface.

If you’re looking for something to keep in your tractor or between the seats of your pickup in case of emergency, the M18 searchlight can project a beam as far as 700 yards using a combination flood/strobe mode. In case there are any doubts about its durability, the housing is made from aircraft-grade aluminum.


Gen II gloves

Just when you thought a product was so simple that there wasn’t room for innovation, the tried-and-true work glove gets a face-lift (or would that be a hand-lift?). Two of the new additions, the Performance and Free-Flex gloves, are built with Smartswipe technology on the fingertips, palms, and knuckles. This allows users to operate smartphones and other screen devices without removing their gloves.

These gloves, too, are reinforced in all the right places (the thumb seam, especially), and are breathable and all-day wearable. For the hottest afternoon on the farm, along the backside of the thumb, the gloves have a terry cloth wipe to help you swipe the sweat off of your brow. How’s that for comfort?


Images courtesy of Milwaukee Tool

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