Industry Blogs

Every year for over a decade Milwaukee Tool has invited members of the trade media and social influencers to their Brookfiled, WI headquarters for the first look at all the new tools coming that year. This is a two day event that has grown a lot o=ver the years, we here at Mechanical Hub are Read more

Every year for over a decade Milwaukee Tool has invited members of the trade media and social influencers to their Brookfiled, WI headquarters for the first look at all the new tools coming that year. This is a two day event that has grown a lot o=ver the years, we here at Mechanical Hub are proud to say we have attended each year the traditional New Product Symposium (NPS) has happened in the past. NPS is the event we first learned of Milwaukee Tool’s now famous FUEL line of tools, even their M18 and M12 series known everywhere for their huge offering of tools and impressive performance.

This year NPS was in danger of happening at all because off the COVID-19 pandemic. Like everything and everyone these days, Milwaukee Tool was challenged with having to simply “figure it out”. Well, they sure did! The PIPELINE series of broadcast events debuted on August 20th to all of Milwaukee’s fans, not just the media and influencer crowd!

Here is a brief recap of some of the tools we all got our eyes on for the first time in episode 1. If you’d like to watch PIPELINE episode 2 on Sept 10, sign up here. 

M18 FUEL COMPACT IMPACT WRENCHES

LAUNCH DATE: NOVEMBER 2020 FRICTION RING: 2854-20, 22, 22CT; 2855-20, 22 PIN DETENT: 2855P-20, 22
Milwaukee Tool continues to transform cordless expectations with the introduction of new go-to impact wrench solutions when accessing tight spaces. Measuring at only 4.8” in length and delivering up to 250 ft-lbs of nut-busting torque, Milwaukee’s next generation M18 FUEL Compact Impact Wrenches deliver the performance needed in tight applications where larger impact wrenches cannot fit.

M18 FUEL SECTIONAL MACHINE FOR 5/8″ AND 7/8″ CABLE
2818A-21, 2818B-21, 2818-21
The M18 FUEL Sectional Machine for 5/8″ and 7/8″ Cable is the most portable and most powerful sectional machine for 1-1/4″ – 6″ drain lines. The POWERSTATE Brushless Motor and REDLINK PLUS Intelligence delivers the power to clear heavy roots up to 150 ft out, providing more power than corded even at the maximum capacity of the machine. The sectional machine ensures the easiest transportation and setup on all jobs by being lightest weight and most compact tool in its class, and offers carry strap connection points for hands-free transportation. The M18 REDLITHIUM High Output HD12.0 Battery Pack powers through multiple jobs on a single charge, and increases safety by providing power anywhere without the use of extension cords.

M12 FUEL 1.6 GALLON WET/DRY VACUUM

LAUNCH DATE: OCTOBER 2020 0960-20, 0960-21
The first 12V wet/dry vacuum of its kind, this new solution delivers 18V performance on a 12V platform. The most compact wet/dry vacuum available today, and operating up to 2X quieter, it provides up to 40% more suction to easily complete all quick and service-oriented clean-up applications.

M18 FUEL PACKOUT 2.5 GALLON WET/DRY VACUUM 0970-20
Milwaukee Tool is proud to introduce the most powerful small capacity 18V wet/dry vacuum, fully compatible with the PACKOUT Modular Storage System. The M18 FUEL PACKOUT 2.5 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum delivers up to 60% more suction than other 18V wet/dry vacuums, giving users the performance and power they need to quickly clean up a wide range of materials.

MX FUEL TOWER LIGHT

LAUNCH DATE: EARLY 2021 MXF041-1XC
The MX FUEL ROCKET Tower Light/Charger is the most portable 10′ light for both indoor and outdoor use, provides up to 27,000 lumens of task and area lighting, and withstands the harshest jobsite environments. Whether it needs to be moved across rough terrain during early phase construction or across pan decking for early morning concrete pours, the 8″ all-terrain wheels ensure you can easily roll across uneven ground. It can be set up in seconds to a max height of 10′ with a motorized mast, and collapses back down to 44″ for easy transportation and storage. Once it is in place, 4 outriggers can quickly be deployed to provide more stability on uneven surfaces. The four multidirectional light heads give users the ability to cast up to 27,000 lumens of TRUEVIEW High Definition Output in several directions.

MX FUEL DRUM MACHINE LAUNCH DATE: NOW! MXF501-1CP
The MX FUEL Sewer Drum Machine w/ POWERTREDZ is built with POWERTREDZ Lift Assist technology which makes it easier for one person to transport the machine up and down stairs, as well as in and out of service vans. In addition, the machine has the power to clear roots 200 ft out while containing the mess with a fully enclosed drum.

Keep an eye out on our social media and here on the site for coverage of episode 2!

How HVAC Contractors Are Balancing Employee and Financial Health In The Era Of COVID-19 As most states across the U.S. see a rise in COVID-19 cases, industries grapple with how to maintain business while keeping employees and customers safe. As essential workers in the building and construction trade, HVAC contractors are reevaluating the way they Read more

How HVAC Contractors Are Balancing Employee and Financial Health In The Era Of COVID-19

As most states across the U.S. see a rise in COVID-19 cases, industries grapple with how to maintain business while keeping employees and customers safe. As essential workers in the building and construction trade, HVAC contractors are reevaluating the way they have worked for decades.

Although every state has its own challenges, guidelines and requirements, there are some standard directives from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), such as social distancing. However, much is left up in the air due to the many unknowns of COVID-19. This leaves HVAC contractors to determine, as a collective, what best practices the industry should implement. From the east coast to the west coast, leading commercial HVAC contractors are sharing thoughts and ideas on how their businesses are successfully riding the waves and staying afloat throughout the pandemic.

Working Smarter

As cities closed down, many HVAC contractors discovered it was harder to get permits approved or have new permits issued. Because projects were put on hold or halted altogether, some contractors were faced with condensing their office staff and crews.

Forward-thinking contractors like Mike Sicard, owner of Willamette HVAC in Hillsboro, Oregon, laid off employees early on so they could be ahead of the rush for unemployment benefits. He cut his team of 30 employees in half and focused on training those remaining to perform multiple jobs. His service manager now performs accounting duties, including payroll, while the dispatcher now also works on invoicing. Being one of the first areas in the country to be impacted by COVID-19, Sicard tried to keep his employees’ best interests at heart, while also keeping his business running smoothly.

Not every company has downsized employees, though. On the other side of the country, Jerry Goddu, project manager for Hickory Mechanical in Hickory, North Carolina, has kept his 20 employees busy and says he could hire a few more. They were able to keep staff on the payroll while limiting employee risk and exposure by decreasing how many hours employees work.

“We went to a four-day work week” said Goddu. “We learned that one day less exposure reduces the chances of encountering illness by 20%.” By focusing on safeguarding employees’ health, contractors keep teams in place and save money in lost labor and health insurance.

The Changing Outlook of Available Work

Commercial work for HVAC contractors has remained fairly steady, with a focus on service work. Sicard says his business used to have a 50/50 split between construction and service work. Since COVID-19 began it’s about 75% service work, with a vast majority of that work coming from maintenance contracts.

With a significant number of buildings across the country closed due to states’ work-from-home orders and social distancing regulations, a building owner or facilities manager will give commercial HVAC contractors access to the building. Sicard notes that it’s good that businesses are keeping up with preventative maintenance, because in some cases owners and managers are unaware of the HVAC unit needing repair since the building is unoccupied. More costly repairs are caught earlier thanks to upkeep on routine maintenance contracts.

Keeping Workers Safe

Before HVAC contractors send their technicians to a jobsite, they are considering their employees’ health and wellbeing. Some teams have high-risk employees—Goddu has several employees over the age of 65—and some live with high-risk individuals. It’s important to set guidelines for safe work practices to ensure everyone is protected.

Going beyond sanitizing trucks (wiping down door handles and cab interiors) and making sure all employees have access to their own sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment (PPE), Goddu also sat down with his employees and shared videos with them on how COVID-19 spreads. Hickory Mechanical enforces the important information from the videos with signage reminding workers to social distance by staying 6 feet apart at all times and implement good hygiene practices. His team has responded well to the information and realizes they must take these extra steps to ensure everyone’s safety.

“We had major layoffs in industries in Hickory, North Carolina, so some of these folks are the only ones working and providing an income for their families,” Goddu said. “They realize how important it is to stay healthy.”

Setting Customers’ Expectations

Keeping employees informed and well-equipped with PPE is just part of the new normal for commercial HVAC contractors. These businesses must also educate customers in their best practices, as well how customers can help ensure the wellbeing of the technician visiting their site. “Set expectations and be very clear with your customers,” says Sicard. “Don’t hesitate to establish very specific instructions for your technician’s access and needs.”

Willamette HVAC’s dispatcher asks customers a set of screening questions when calling to confirm the technician’s arrival time—asking pertinent queries such as has anyone in the home been ill or has the home been under quarantine. They also request that customers practice social distancing with the technician, ask about the location of the HVAC system and remind customers to clear away any items that may be around the system—technicians prefer not to touch items unnecessarily during the appointment. As a courtesy to customers and to protect their health, Willamette HVAC’s technicians also wear booties and masks when servicing or installing parts of the system that are located inside buildings.

Being Proactive

Sicard believes he’s learned an important business lesson that will transcend the pandemic. When a crisis arises, he now knows—and recommends to others—the importance of having a response plan in place and implementing it swiftly. “Be proactive instead of reactive and conduct crucial conversations with employees,” he says.

That means being prepared to act quickly as regulations and conditions change in your state or region. As experts now say, there is no normal in the new normal. All industries are in uncharted waters when it comes to COVID-19, but the more honest contractors are, the easier it is to manage everyone’s expectations.

Lisa Zierfuss has served as product manager for a variety of tapes at Shurtape Technologies, LLC, an industry-leading manufacturer and marketer of adhesive tape. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from University of Wisconsin-Madison and has earned several product manager certifications from the Pragmatic Institute.

Bob Baker isn’t shy about telling potential clients that if they are looking for the least expensive plumbing option in town, they should look elsewhere. But if they are looking for a company that will provide quality work and stand behind the work they do, then they’ve come to the right place. Baker is the Read more

Bob Baker isn’t shy about telling potential clients that if they are looking for the least expensive plumbing option in town, they should look elsewhere. But if they are looking for a company that will provide quality work and stand behind the work they do, then they’ve come to the right place.

Baker is the third-generation owner of Baker Plumbing, Heating and Gasfitting, founded in 1956 in Calgary, Alberta. The company was originally started by his grandfather, Ralph Baker, before being taken over by his father, Gerry Baker; Bob’s led the company since 1996.

When it comes to drain cleaning, the company’s work is primarily commercial and includes hotels, warehouses, restaurants and small businesses in industrial parks. All businesses that demand quick response times and fast blockage resolution.

“When they call, they need you there five minutes ago and want to know you can provide a solution as quickly as possible,” said Baker. “I risk losing the contract if I don’t have a machine that can accomplish the work quickly.”

That’s where RIDGID tools come in.

“Honestly, there isn’t anyone who makes a better tool,” said Baker, who owns a variety of RIDGID tools including drain cleaning, locating, pipe inspection and pressing.

Two tools he’s recently added to his arsenal of drain cleaning solutions from RIDGID are the K-5208 Sectional Machine and the FlexShaftDrain Cleaning Machines.

Baker was introduced to the K-5208 when he was working to clear a restaurant’s drain line. After about 10 hours of trying to clear the line, the cable of his drum machine broke. Not being able to get a replacement immediately, his RIDGID sales rep suggested he try the K-5208. He was skeptical but gave it a shot and has been sold since.

“With the K-5208 guys can be in and out of a job in 30 minutes,” he said, describing how the machine paid for itself on the first day and has helped to increase job revenue on average by 30 percent.

With the FlexShaft Machine, Baker purchased it specifically for urinal drain cleaning (his least favorite job) to hopefully extend the time between service calls, a benefit to not only him and his team, but also a money saver for his clients, who sometimes call him back monthly to reclean a line.

While it’s too soon to tell how long that extended timeframe will be, Baker has already seen other benefits to the FlexShaft Machine. He’s been able to eliminate the chemicals he typically had to add to the line after using an auger to help keep the line clear. He still uses the auger first, but then goes back through the line with the FlexShaft Machine to really scour the line and “sparkle it up.” With this method, he no longer needs the chemicals, flushing the line with water only, making it a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution.

Another benefit is being able to run a camera right behind the FlexShaft Machine to see the work they are doing as they do it, eliminating the step of cleaning the line and then going back into the drain line with a camera.

A believer in the value of inspection cameras and locating since he bought his first RIDGID camera in 2004, Baker compares its role to that of a surgeon preparing for surgery. “When a doctor needs to perform surgery, they do everything they can to know what they can expect when they begin the procedure to minimize risk and accurately address the situation,” he said. “Same with locating and inspection; they help minimize risk and ensure accuracy in eliminating blockages.”

Whatever the job, Baker has seen value in his RIDGID tools for helping him deliver on his company’s promise of providing quality work.

“They (RIDGID tools) helped us do our job and do it better,” Baker said. “We love our tools.”

Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S., affecting more than 50 million Americans annually. And with each passing year, the situation gets worse. In the first half 2020 alone, a number of states including Georgia and New York have seen pollen counts near record highs and Washington, DC experienced a Read more

Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S., affecting more than 50 million Americans annually. And with each passing year, the situation gets worse. In the first half 2020 alone, a number of states including Georgia and New York have seen pollen counts near record highs and Washington, DC experienced a spike even earlier than usual this spring.

There are a number of products on the market that can help mitigate allergy symptoms and create a more comfortable indoor environment. While each individual should explore the range of solutions available to them, installing HVAC equipment designed to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) can be one route to reduce allergens in the home. HVAC installations like ductless mini-split systems, air purification technologies and proper ventilation units can help lessen allergy triggers. With these solutions, homeowners can lower the concentration of pollen in the indoor environment to promote a healthier, more comfortable space.

Ductless Mini-Split Systems

A ductless mini-split system is comprised of two main components that work together but are installed in separate places. An outdoor condenser unit is connected to a single or multiple indoor units via small refrigerant pipes. Installation by a licensed contractor is simple, requiring no ductwork and only a small exterior wall penetration to connect the refrigerant lines and electricity. Since there is no ductwork, dust and allergens that are often found in the ductwork of common ducted HVAC systems is avoided.

Ductless mini-split systems also tend to be more energy efficient while providing more flexibility to homeowners who can select different units based on their home’s individual needs. For example, if the goal of a homeowner is to reduce allergens within his or her home, he/she may choose a system that has air purification technology built-in. With this setup, the ductless air purification system constitutes one part of a total home solution. Other products like floor air purifiers offer their own unique benefits and should be considered by homeowners on a case by case basis.

Air Purification Technologies

There are many different kinds of air purification technologies on the market ranging from filters to those that utilize ultraviolet light. One patented variety of air purification technology uses nano-sized electrostatic atomized water particles rich in OH radicals that can reduce the concentration of certain pollutants and odors in the home, while adding moisture to occupants’ skin.

Depending on the model in use, these technologies have been shown to inhibit a number of airborne and adhered pollutants including select bacteria and viruses, mold, allergens, pollen and hazardous substances. Harmful substances in fine particle matter (PM2.5) and pollen that are thought to cause asthma, bronchitis and other health issues tend to cling to your clothing and hair when you come in from outside. Having an air purification system can reduce the negative effects of such pollutants in your home by neutralizing these substances when you come inside, preventing the pollutants from impacting the IAQ within your home.

For those with pets or babies, IAQ is even more important to protect. Keeping air and surfaces like carpets minimized of allergens such as mites and pet dander can be a challenge. With the right air purification system, homeowners can create an environment that’s cleaner for children and more comfortable to live in with pets.

Proper Ventilation

Ventilation is another important component when it comes to mitigating allergens within the home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are three types of ventilation strategies: natural ventilation that occurs as air moves in and out of small holes in the home, spot ventilation that removes pollution and moisture at the source (i.e. in the kitchen with a range hood or the bathroom with a vent fan) and whole-house ventilation which uses fans and ducts to supply fresh air to the full house.

If a homeowner chooses to install a whole-house ventilation system, the right fresh air strategy is crucial. A fresh air strategy that allows for customized airflow, can operate as a stand-alone solution and can be integrated with a larger, balanced ventilation solution is a smart choice for any homeowner looking to bolster IAQ during allergy season. To provide additional peace of mind, some fan models increase speed automatically to ensure optimal output when faced with static pressure. This ensures fresh air is continually circulated throughout the home, effectively reducing the presence of allergens and other irritants.

Ensuring Year-Round IAQ Benefits

Because comfort consists of more than just having the right temperature in a room, it’s important to consider how health and cleanliness can impact IAQ. During allergy season and beyond, IAQ plays an integral role in creating a comfortable living space where occupants aren’t presented with pollen, pet dander and other allergens that can cause irritation. While there are many products on the market that can help improve IAQ, for those particularly sensitive to pollutants and irritants, those with babies or pets or those just looking for a way to stay healthier at home, investing in the right ductless mini-split systems, air purification technologies and proper ventilation can be great place to start.

Victor Flynn is a senior product manager at Panasonic Appliances Air-Conditioning North America. With over 30 years of experience, Victor has focused on developing and managing commercial and residential building products, optimizing product sell-through and improving end-user satisfaction by coordinating product development with engineering teams, developing training programs and collaborating with sales representatives and distributors.

Similar to the way the rest of the world was impacted, employers and employees of the propane industry in Canada found that the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a tremendous disruption to normal working patters. As the numbers of new infections continue to decline in most regions across the country, there are still longer-term safety Read more

Similar to the way the rest of the world was impacted, employers and employees of the propane industry in Canada found that the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a tremendous disruption to normal working patters. As the numbers of new infections continue to decline in most regions across the country, there are still longer-term safety concerns – many of which also include social distancing policies – that will likely alter the way propane workers operate in the foreseeable future. Technological solutions can help overcome some of the most challenging aspects of resuming and maintaining normal operations.

For many employers, addressing the question of how to bring propane workers back to the job in a safe and healthy manner presents a tremendous challenge. Contactless and remote solutions may be ideal for propane work, as these platforms provide a way to still effectively get the propane to end users despite any challenges that may be encountered while also preventing unnecessary physical contact.

Contactless technologies have the unique capacity for propane workers out in the field – even those who are not fully trained yet and those who are not familiar with the details involved and the safety issues that can arise when transporting and filling propane tanks. They can use the platform to connect with experts in the home office to clarify any questions that may arise in the normal course of doing their duties. In addition to the safety benefits offered by reducing physical contact, you can also make sure that any employees can get immediate access to safety experts who can walk them through any hazardous situations that may be encountered when filling and transporting pressurized propane, such as a leak or threat of combustion. And while it may be tempting to think that the same functionality can be achieved through a standard video call, contactless technology offers so much more.

In addition to functionality that supports HD-quality video calls, these technologies feature a unique drawing tool that works directly on the live video feed to make clear notes on the live screen, to put a circle around the targeted area or to sketch an arrow to pinpoint the precise areas of concern. Taken together, these features empower employees in the field and those in the office to work closely together without physical proximity, but still in a way that ensures problems are identified and resolved quickly. Workers get correct answers immediately in a way that addresses the uncertainty that may arise from a standard video feed. This uncertainty poses a huge problem when safety concerns arise or may arise if one step in a process is completed incorrectly or ignored. Anyone working with propane on a regular basis understands that a safe situation can quickly change – and it’s worth having immediate contact and clear guidance on how to best remedy any safety threat that may emerge.

For example, contactless technologies can clarify any questions that arise while on the job site in real-time, ensuring that processes are followed correctly, and questions are answered quickly. During the transport and filling of propane tanks, questions often arise about the differences in tanks and how to correctly align any valves or hoses to ensure that the tank is filled properly. Additionally, workers may have questions when they encounter older tanks and fittings that may not be in great condition. When questions like this arise, the field workers can show his supervisor a live video stream of the area in question and then use a digital drawing tool on the actual video to circle or point to the exact connectors, hoses, valves, etc. needing to be addressed so they together ensure the propane is delivered safely. This type of immediate and clear communication can ensure that workplace conditions remain safe for employees, without losing productivity by waiting for clarification.

However, before jumping in and implementing any new communication platform, companies should proceed cautiously given security concerns – which became paramount during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies made quick changes to enable a remote workforce, but unfortunately, this led to many hacks and data breaches. Without proper security protocols in place, there is always the danger that a video meeting could be hacked, which can lead to a devastating data breach for contractors and construction companies working on highly sensitive projects.

While the promise of contactless solutions is great, it’s still vital to ensure that these platforms are deployed in a secure environment. Companies should take precautions to ensure they are only working with trusted and reputable industry experts that can identify potential security concerns and ensure they are addressed fully. This is the best way to protect your company from a costly and reputation-damaging data breach.

Shifting to new working environments will be a challenge for companies in the propane industry. The best way to ensure your continued success is by identifying tools and resources that can be implemented in a way that promotes remote working and social distancing policies. Contactless technology also has the added benefit of enhancing workplace safety, which is crucial in an industry that has the potential to be dangerous.

Contactless solutions will likely play a big role in the transformation of these industries, to both meet the immediate safety concerns that arose from COVID-19 and to address long-term safety goals of the industry. They can be highly effective at both ensuring work still gets done on pace with project timelines and that it gets done with expert oversight and the safety guidance necessary. Now is the time to prepare for the future and begin to explore ways that contactless solutions can address the unique needs of your company in its new working environment.

Larry Dorie, CEO and Co-Founder of RHUB Communications, creators of one of the most secure on-premise web conferencing and remote support tools for enterprise organizations.