Innovation: One-Key, a digital partner for tools and equipment
Milwaukee Tool has stretched beyond its expertise in manufacturing power tools to create a digital platform that can communicate directly with a segment of its drills, drivers, impacts and crimpers.
The platform, One-Key, launched in mid-September as a free mobile application and web resource after about six years of internal research and development.
The cloud-based platform allows Milwaukee Tool customers to connect to and control their power tools in an unprecedented way, according to Christian Coulis, vice president of product management at the company.
Through a Bluetooth-enabled connection between the app and the tool, users can customize the tool’s output with complete control over its speeds and torque so that it functions most efficiently for the project at hand.
“That’s completely new to this industry,” Coulis said. “It’s never been done before.”
The control is particularly helpful for drills, whose performance has increased four times over in the last seven years to become incredibly powerful and fast, according to Coulis.
Professionals handling heavy work need that power and speed. But in some cases, a tool’s excessive power can make it hard to control effectively. That can lead to heads breaking off screws, breaks in material that the drill is penetrating, and a lot of frustration around not being able to install certain fasteners correctly, Coulis said.
One-Key also contains unique screens and capabilities that give users a custom interface for the most popular applications they would complete with the tool.
For instance, a user working with an impact driver and a self-tapping screw can record in the app the screw length, screw diameter and material gauge, and the tool will essentially adjust itself automatically.
Beyond tool control, the digital platform holds inventory and asset management capabilities, so companies can document their belongings in real time.
Construction companies often must track all their inventory and assets – including equipment, tools and employees, across multiple worksites, according to Coulis. Excel spreadsheets or pen and paper have long been popular inventory and asset management methods, he said.
One-Key enables companies to digitally capture every piece of equipment they own, along with each piece’s current location, and make immediate updates as needed.
The digital outlet also operates tool reporting, through which Milwaukee Tool customers can extract performance information from the tool with the app to ensure the tool is doing its job.
“This is going to give the user of power tools the absolute best performance for what they do,” Coulis said of One-Key.
Among One-Key’s most innovative elements, according to Coulis, is the potential for its system to provide enhancements for tools after they have been made and bought, thanks to app updates.
Milwaukee Tool has a “pretty robust roadmap” to enhance tool features, Coulis said.
“With the update to the app, you’ll have new features and new enhancements that unlock new capabilities that you’ve never had,” he said.
Milwaukee Tool has released one power tool that is compatible with the digital platform – a six-ton utility crimper – and aims to release a second tool at the end of December. In February, the company plans to release six more tools – cordless drills and cordless impacts – that are friendly with One-Key.
The concept behind One-Key emerged about six years ago as Milwaukee Tool realized the need to develop custom tools for consumers in a practical way.
In collecting feedback from test users throughout the development of the platform, Milwaukee Tool collected a gamut of ideas about features to implement, which have been difficult to prioritize, Coulis said.
“We’re creating this huge funnel of new features that are all really exciting and beneficial,” Coulis said. “Taking those to fruition, though, has probably been the biggest challenge just because there’s a lot of prioritization that needs to happen and there’s just so many different ideas that have fallen into that funnel.”