Milwaukee Tool is no stranger to the drain-cleaning space in the PHCP industry.
The Brookfield, Wisconsin-based tools and accessories manufacturer, entered the space in 2016 offering, as it explains, a huge leap in mobility and innovation for end users.
“When we entered this space, we aimed to disrupt and truly push the boundaries of productivity for these users,” Milwaukee Tool Assistant Product Manager Raina Johnson tells BNP Media’s Plumbing Group in this exclusive interview. “We spent thousands of hours working with these pros to understand their ongoing frustrations with the tools and equipment they were using.”
Johnson notes that from those research hours, Milwaukee identified three key drivers to focus on as it entered the drain-cleaning market: clearing confidently (having enough power to clear tough blockages), instant set-up and all-day runtime (due to no cords), and the easiest transportation to and from the job.
Four years later, Milwaukee is taking things to the next level with the announcement of its cordless M18 FUEL Sectional Machine for 5/8-inch and 7/8-inch cable. This new product innovation follows on the heels of the previous launch of its M18 FUEL Sewer Sectional Machine with CABLE-DRIVE that allows users to clear tough blockages in 2-inch up to 8-inch sewer lateral lines.
This new machine was just announced during Milwaukee’s brand-new virtual series called Milwaukee PIPELINE, which replaces the wildly popular in-person New Product Symposium that could not take place this year due to COVID-19 concerns.
Johnson says the new M18 FUEL Sectional Machine for 5/8” and 7/8” cable will give end users a versatile go-to product in their tool kit. “Essentially, this means that users will now have the lightest, most portable machine for use on anything from 1 1/4-inch sink lines to 6-inch sewer laterals,” she says. “This allows them to easily transition from outdoor cleanouts, to rooftops, to the tightest indoor applications.”
The M18 FUEL Sectional Machine features higher torque and RPM (128 in. lb./650 RPM) which, when coupled with Milwaukee’s sectional drain cleaning cables, results in the machine having more than 50% more clog clearing power at the max distance (150 feet) than the most popular corded competitor, Milwaukee Tool states. Johnson adds the sectional has less bog-down when engaged in a clog. “Users won’t feel a significant drop in power when they hit heavy clogs,” she explains. “Instead, they will be able to power right through it, while maintaining control over the cable.”
With the 150-foot clearing capability, Johnson stresses the new sectional will deliver more power at that max 150-foot distance. “Whether the clog is only 15 feet down the line or 150 feet down the line, users can be confident that they will have all the power they need to clear the toughest clogs, such as heavy root blockages or heavily corroded lines,” she says.
Johnson says run-time feedback from field testers on the new sectional has been exemplary.
“The fact that we have been able to run it on more than six different jobsites on one consecutive charge, and the machine was still able to continue to run after that, is really what sold me on the runtime of this machine,” says Jesse Price, technician at Wimpy’s Plumbing and Air based out of Sarasota, Florida, who was able to clear a total of 12 drains on one battery charge.
Wimpy’s Plumbing and Air owner Mike Butler agrees. “On one full charge of a 12-amp battery we completed seven different stoppages. Those encompassed rooftop stoppages, cleanout stoppages, roots, corrosion, and more,” he says.
“My concern was that it wasn’t going to last more than two jobs,” says Daniel Kuzmick, owner and technician at Main Drain Plumbing in West Palm Beach, Florida, who has been using the machine for several months. “I did seven jobs on one battery without charging. And these weren’t quick hits. These were going on the roof, running the cable, running the cable more, going back and forth. There’s time involved in that, and I got seven jobs completed on one battery.”
Even as the battery life of the new tool wanes, performance does not suffer, Milwaukee notes. “I was taken aback about how strong it actually is, being battery powered and not plugged in,” Kuzmick says. “It has consistent power through and through. I recently had to tackle a line that was full of roots with this machine. There was probably six or seven actual feet of roots that had grown into this line. I put the root-cutter head on the M18 FUEL sectional machine and it went right through them. I have been able to unclog every clog that I have been on with this tool.”
Milwaukee’s Johnson adds this about the battery platform: “The new sectional machine leverages our M18 FUEL technology. M18 FUEL integrates our POWERSTATE brushless motor, REDLITHIUM batteries and REDLINK PLUS intelligence to deliver a product with more power than corded, incredible run time, and durability. By tying brushless motors to the world’s most capable electronics packages and most advanced lithium-ion batteries, we can truly push the boundaries of cordless tool performance, and enhance a user’s overall productivity. This complex interworking of lithium-ion, motor technologies and electronics is what helps us deliver a full day of work on one battery charge with this tool.”
The machine features tool-free cable-size changes and does not need to be oiled, plus has convenient onboard pin key storage. “This is a small feature, but is consistently a big hit with users,” Johnson says.
Also, the machine has new-to-world grease cleaner head attachments. “These attachments will give you much cleaner pipes with significantly less effort,” says Johnson, who adds the best experience is clearing grease in 1 1/2-inch to 2 1/2-inch pipes.
Kuzmick notes that this is now his go-to machine, taking the place of another machine he used for years.
“In order to replace my current tool, this had to live up to a few standards: not leave me stranded, to perform, have the power, have the versatility, try to beat up and see what happens,” he says. “I have done quite a few jobs with this machine and I have not been let down. My productivity rate has already increased because of the ease of having a battery-operated machine and not having to run a cord. It’s so much lighter than my current tool, and it still has the right amount of umph that’s needed to do the job.”
Johnson cautions Milwaukee is far from finished in the drain-cleaning space. “We made the big push into the drain cleaning space because of our focus on the plumber and our desire to provide solutions for the entire lifecycle of the plumbing system,” she says. “We are just getting started. We continue to uncover frustrations in this space and we are absolutely meeting the challenge head-on. We will continue to invest in furthering our cordless technology and capabilities so we can provide solutions that allow users to answer more service calls with less hassle.”
More about Milwaukee PIPELINE
Milwaukee’s PIPELINE series will take place throughout the next few months and is a “momentous, behind-the-scenes experience where audiences can learn about the dozens of Milwaukee products set to launch in 2020 and beyond,” the company notes.
To gain access to Milwaukee PIPELINE, audiences must register for the “members only” portal at www.milwaukeetool.com/pipeline. One registered, episodes will be available on-demand after the premiere.
The first episode debuted tonight, Thursday, Aug. 20 at 5 p.m. (Central), but remains available on-demand to anyone who registered on the website.