An 80-year-old manufacturer transformed a steel mill into a construction site to introduce a new line of professional power tools for contractors, builders, and woodworkers to a group of magazine editors.

Ridgid, Inc., a subsidiary of Emerson Electric, announced the launch of 35 new products at a press event Aug. 8 at the Finkl Steel Mill in Chicago. Emerson partnered with One World Technologies, Inc., to analyze the market, conduct field research, and test competitive models before developing cordless, corded, benchtop and stationary power tools. During the two-year product development process, the companies interviewed more than 500 people in eight cities, collected data from online surveys, and organized focus groups.

Jay Gatz, Ridgid brand manager, discusses the features and capabilities of the new product line, which took two years to launch.

“We wanted to learn everything there was to learn about the contractor and get into the mind of the pro,” says Bob Gautsch, director of business development for Ridgid, Inc. “We knew that to launch a line of power tools in a crowded marketplace, these tools had to be the best in class.”

To develop the performance criteria for the new line of tools, Ridgid benchmarked the competition within each of the product categories and invested a quarter of a million dollars in their competitors’ products. The Ridgid team members then performed drop tests on the tools and cycled motors until they burnt up or burst into flames. Ridgid built enhanced capabilities, ergonomic designs, and durable components into many of its tools to increase safety and improve efficiency on the job site. Some of the corded tools feature extended life motors that are engineered to withstand extreme conditions and refract dust, which can wear down the motor prematurely.

“When we talked with professionals, we understood that tool life and usability on the job site was critical,” says Jay Gatz, Ridgid brand manager. “The result of all this design and engineering is that we have a motor that will last up to five times longer than the competition.”

Ridgid announced the launch of 35 handheld, cordless, corded, benchtop, and stationary power tools.

The corded tools also feature a 12-ft rubber cord that will not crack or deteriorate in cold weather and a Velcro cord wrap. Contractors can identify which tool is plugged in a power strip by checking the backlit icon of the tool on the plug.

Ridgid also offers a line of cordless power tools that feature single-sleeve locking chucks, a 24-position clutch, and a dual-port charger. Contractors can improve job-site efficiency and boost productivity by charging two batteries simultaneously. A built-in fan cools the batteries down to room temperature and then charges two batteries in 30 min. or one battery in 20 min. The batteries are self-ejecting so they are easier for professionals to slip in and slip out, and the battery pack is located at the bottom of the tools for better weight distribution and balance.

A dual-port battery charger and an extra battery come standard with all the cordless drills and the combo kits. The three-piece combo kit features a canvas carrying bag, flashlight, circular saw and hammer drill. In its four-piece kit, Ridgid added a reciprocating saw, which Gatz says has become the demolition tool of choice for electricians.

“The combo kits are the fastest growing segment of the industry because of the perceived value of getting a variety of tools,” he says. “The price points are set up so that for a few hundred bucks more, you’re getting multiple tools and more functionality.”

To tie together the entire line and make the tools stand out on a job site, Ridgid made all of its “Best in Class” tools a specific shade of orange rather than its traditional gray or red. The company is also offering a lifetime service warranty to anyone who buys a Ridgid power tool from September through December of this year. After that time, customers will get a 90-day satisfaction guarantee and a three-year warranty against defects and workmanship. The tools, which include an angle grinder, scroll saw, hammer drill, and reciprocating saw, will be available by Oct. 1 through a nationwide distribution network and at Home Depot, which will be the exclusive retailer in the home center channel.