By Dan Davis
High-powered fiber laser cutting machines, high-precision press brakes, and robotic welding cells come to mind when a fabricator thinks of cutting-edge machine tools. Power
tools are taken for granted, as they sit to the side
in a toolroom or a cabinet until they are needed.
Fabricators may be missing some real potential for
shop floor efficiency, however, if they continue to
think of their power tools in the same manner.
Just think about how much has changed for power tools over the last decade. Many folks now work
with cordless tools, thanks to a shift from AC to DC
power sources. This transition was hastened as battery technology evolved from nickel-cadmium to
the longer-lived lithium-ion platform.
As these cordless tools moved to brushless motor
technology, fabricators and tradespeople got more
power in their hands. Simultaneously, a power tool
manufacturer started to realize that because its
tools now had electronically controlled motors, it
had the potential to add “intelligence” to the tool
and communicate with it.
That realization led Milwaukee Tool to develop its
ONE-KEY™ digital platform, which debuted in late
“ONE-KEY is the program that allows users to interact with their tools and manage their tools better,” said Steve Matson, a senior product manager
with Milwaukee Tool.
The initial push for the ONE-KEY product centered
around its inventory management and configuration capabilities. With the application downloaded
on a smartphone, tablet, or computer, an individual
can keep tabs on all ONE-KEY-enabled tools. A person can look up a tool’s purchase information, status, performance history, and maintenance schedule. From a configuration standpoint, the user can
adjust the tool’s parameters, such as run-time and
power, to optimize consumable usage or to ensure
consistent tool settings for repetitive jobs done by
multiple employees (see Figure 1).
The tool also can be assigned to a person, work
site, or vehicle. This action helps to create a digital
home for the tool. This is important, Matson said,
because the latest generation of cordless tools
were very likely to go missing from a work site or a
“It got to the point where this was commonly
heard from our tools’ users so we really had to take
a hard look at it,” he said. “When you are a company
that is aligned with helping people be more produc-
tive, you need to get the tools in their hands. If they
don’t have those tools, they can’t be productive.”
Using the same app, tool owners can now track
their ONE-KEY-enabled devices on their smart-
phones, which also act as the main tool in this
“Bluetooth, crowd-sourced” tracking effort, Matson
said. People’s smartphones, with the ONE-KEY app
downloaded, act as beacons on the job site or man-
ufacturing facility. When a phone comes within 100
feet of the smart power tool, it updates the app as to
where that tool is located (see Figure 2).
This theoretically could be helpful if a piece of
equipment has been stolen. If someone with a ONE-KEY-enabled smartphone is walking around a pawn
shop or a swap meet, that person’s phone could connect with the stolen piece of equipment. “That’s an
example of the 250,000 users in the system who are
all helping to track your stuff down,” Matson said.
If a smart tool goes missing, the user can mark it
as missing within the app. The next time that missing tool comes within range of a ONE-KEY-enabled
phone, the user is notified about the location of that
once-lost tool. The user can even choose to shut
down the tool remotely through the app.
“It will be turned into a paperweight,” Matson said.
For equipment such as generators and welding
power sources that don’t have the same smart capabilities embedded within them, Milwaukee Tool
product developers came up with the TICK™ tool
and equipment tracker. The tracker, which can be
affixed to equipment with adhesives, plastic ties,
or screws, interacts with the ONE-KEY network just
like the company’s smart products do (see Figure
3). Just as it does with the smart power tools, the
app automatically stores the location of a TICK and
the equipment it’s attached to the last time it was
within 100 ft. of a ONE-KEY-enabled phone. This location is updated as other phones come in range of
the TICK. A user can check the app to pinpoint the
last seen date, time, and location.
“The whole idea for all of this is to eliminate the
need to have skilled labor look for stuff,” Matson said.
Matson added that this new connectivity between
the company and its power tools has gotten people
excited. Large contractors and manufacturing companies understand how money can be saved just by
keeping track of tools and not losing them. Smaller
companies realize they have an instant inventory log
of power tools, which is great for insurance or reference purposes, as they are connected to the inventory management system. Businesses of all sizes like
the idea that their tools can be modernized with an
upgrade that is sent over a Bluetooth connection.
“The stuff that we can do with tracking is really
just the beginning of what we can deliver to the
user,” Matson said.
“The next logical step is to start analyzing what’s
going on with the tool,” he continued. “Is it being
used at all? Is it being misused? Does it need service?”
Editor-in-Chief Dan Davis can be reached at dand@
Milwaukee Tool, 800-729-3878, www.milwaukeetool.com
Knowledge is power when it comes to power tools
The interconnected world helps to keep the fabrication project going
A Bluetooth-enabled tracking device helps a company
keep track of all sorts of equipment.
With Wi-Fi connectivity between a Milwaukee Tool control application and a smart power tool, a person can
adjust settings on the power tool, even from a remote
Milwaukee Tool’s ONE-KEY tool-tracking capability lets
a power tool owner know where the tool is on a job site
or in the manufacturing facility.