It’s a bit of a misnomer in woodworking circles to call the decades-old Delta brand “new,” but in many ways, it is. Just last month, Delta Power Equipment Corporationcelebrated its one-year anniversary as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chang Type Industrial Co. Ltd. It was divested by Stanley Black & Decker and purchased by Chang Type in February of last year, renamed and given new leadership with Bryan Whiffen as president and CEO and Norm MacDonald as executive vice president and COO. We covered that news in a previous Industry Interview, and you can read it by clicking here.
Delta was positioning itself for much more than a name change and new ownership: the again independent company also moved its manufacturing and warehouse headquarters in Jackson, Tennessee, to Anderson, South Carolina. The timeframe was to be swift: less than half a year was allotted to make the move, retool the new facility, hire staff and start to manufacture woodworking tools again. How did it go? How is it going? Recently, Norm MacDonald agreed to bring our readership up to speed on the past year’s activities and provide highlights about some updated, and other all-new, woodworking tools to come.
MacDonald, who has previous experience in relocating other manufacturing operations, says Delta’s physical move went more smoothly than he initially thought it would. “We gave ourselves only 90 days to prepare the Anderson facility for 45 truckloads of manufacturing equipment and materials. We had to set it all up and hire almost a full staff … When you start from scratch with the intention of being in full production again in five months, that isn’t a lot of time.”
Still, the company set a goal of manufacturing and shipping 300 Unisaws from Anderson by the middle of July, and it was a benchmark they took seriously. Delta has been making its latest Unisaw iteration mostly in the United States for several years at the former Jackson facility, along with radial arm saws, line boring machines and Biesemeyer rip fences and accessories. “Because of our dedicated staff, we achieved that goal of having 300 saws off the line in Anderson by July … but just barely,” MacDonald admits.
Now, wrapping up the first quarter of its second year, Delta is producing almost that many Unisaws on a monthly basis. To see a video of how those Unisaws are made, click here.
Initially, some of Delta’s key stateside supply sources were skeptical not only of the physical move but also of Delta’s long-term intentions. “There was the natural uncertainty of change at work with some of our supply base, and we had to smooth out those relationships…They feared we were going to shutter up the Jackson facility and outsource everything overseas. Clearly, we did not do that.”
MacDonald says that, consistent with its initial vision a year ago, Delta wants to grow the stalwart brand by adding new, compelling products and maintaining a high level of quality but without increasing costs. One positive step in that direction, MacDonald revealed, is that Delta has invested in a laser cutter “that allows us to manufacture a lot more in-house rather than contracting that work to job shops.”
In terms of new personnel, Delta forecasted that it would hire around 30 employees last year, and by the end of 2011 the number of new hires was approaching 50. MacDonald sees it as a sign of solid growth as well as an asset in terms of knowledge base. “Some of the people on our sales and R and D teams have lengthy histories with Delta, stretching back to the 1970s, 80s and 90s. These people cut their teeth on the Delta brand, and they’re passionate about it. They’ve been instrumental in bringing us more rapidly up to speed.”
Operating at what now appears to be a strong and quick clip, Delta should have a “phenomenal” 2012 in terms of updated products and new machine offerings, MacDonald forecasts. For instance, last month the company reintroduced an economical three-speed 1-micron “entry-level” air cleaner with remote control and digital readout — a category for which MacDonald says Delta was formerly not price competitive. It also unveiled a portable 1-1/2 hp Cyclone Dust Collector with a convenient chip barrel system to help simplify emptying and repositioning the bag. A dust collector floor sweep accessory can be added to it for an all-in-one cleanup station. A new line of premium Timber Wolf® band saw blades is also now available in six different sizes, as are five new styles of Super Sharps™ Delta scroll saw blades.
As a complement to those new scroll saw blades, next month Delta plans to have available a new 20-in. variable-speed scroll saw with a top arm that can be pivoted up and locked out of the way for faster blade changes and easier fretwork. It will have an improved locking and tilting table mechanism and upfront controls.
“We’re also coming out with four new sanders this spring, and here’s an area where Delta just hasn’t been a contender in the past,” MacDonald says. Offerings will include a stationary dual drum sander, a 6″ x 89″ oscillating edge sander, a heavy-duty oscillating bench spindle sander and a heavy-duty floor model spindle sander. MacDonald reports that the stationary spindle sander has an exclusive feature: the spindle tilts, not the table, for sanding angles. “You won’t have to fight gravity with the workpiece, because the table stays level for added convenience, and so does the part you are sanding.”
In the May/June timeframe, Delta anticipates launching four new steel-frame band saws with enclosed bases and ball-bearing blade guides: two 18-in. and two 14-in. machines. And, looking deeper into the year, MacDonald revealed that the company will introduce helical insert cutterheads, both as retrofits for current Delta planers and jointers as well as included in new models to yet come. In the third or fourth quarter, “it’s feasible for us to potentially add new contractor’s and hybrid table saws to our lineup. We think there’s real viability there for new table saw models that are priced for budget-conscious woodworkers who can’t invest in a new Unisaw.”
Given all of the changes over the past year, it seems that little dust has had a chance to settle at Delta’s new Anderson facility, but MacDonald summarizes the progress through a building analogy: “Last year was about laying the foundation; our second year will be about adding those bricks and mortar … We want to raise this brand up to be what it once was, with tools that are again built to last for generations.”