One of the truisms of life is that change is the only constant and, of course, change happens in business all the time. Manufacturers of woodworking machinery are subject to the same challenges of a changing marketplace as other heavy industries and so must either adapt to it or languish by the roadside.
Many of you may be aware that 10 years ago, Delta Machinery, a business unit of Pentair, was sold to Black and Decker, along with several other tool brands including Porter-Cable. At the time, Delta was headquartered in Jackson, Tennessee. Then, in 2011, Black and Decker sold Delta’s assets to Chang Type Industrial, LLC, a major OEM manufacturer of power tools that is located in Taichung City, Taiwan. Chang Type established a new company for the brand, changed its name to Delta Power Equipment, and moved the whole operation from Jackson to Anderson, South Carolina. It has been headquartered there ever since.
Over the past few years, Woodworker’s Journal, along with others in our industry, has watched the changes at Delta with interest. But, we haven’t had the opportunity in some time to get an update straight from the source. Certainly most woodworkers will agree that Delta is a legacy brand for both hobbyist and professional woodworkers, having been around in some form for almost 100 years. So, I was pleased when Rick Carr, Delta’s national sales manager, agreed to provide an overview of Delta’s current structure and developments for this issue of the eZine. If you are a longtime Delta machinery owner or are in the market for some new tools, you might appreciate knowing what’s up with the company these days, too.
For starters, Carr says that while some other woodworking machinery manufacturers have recently been acquired by hedge funds, private equity firms or have brought on new investors, Chang Type has enabled Delta to remain independent and financially strong, “and we’re getting even stronger as our volume grows,” he says.
Delta’s current president, Kevin Chang, brings extensive manufacturing and engineering expertise to the brand, along with Chang Type’s 80-person engineering staff and four “state-of-the-art” manufacturing facilities that build Delta’s current tools. Among them are the family of Delta Unisaws as well as a new line of four 10-in. table saws we shared in a recent issue of the eZine. Kevin, a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology, has extensive background with the North American woodworking equipment market, Carr adds.
“Delta is in a much better position to grow today versus the past 10 years. The financial support and engineering-oriented ownership, committed to new product development and product line expansion, is long overdue.”
Stateside in Anderson, Carr reports that the company’s current staff of 40 employees performs engineering, marketing, manufacturing support and warehousing. No Delta machines are manufactured or assembled in the Anderson facility.
During Delta’s restructuring period, which began in 2012, distribution issues for products caused some challenges. As a result, “our distribution base contracted,” Carr admits, and he says some dealers are continuing to take a “wait and see” attitude with Delta today. But Carr believes that many of Delta’s former dealers will come back on board with the brand eventually. “My take on this is that Delta is simply in the penalty box, not out of the game.”
Carr considers Delta’s dealer network to be immeasurably valuable to its business. “We are committed 100 percent to our dealer network … Their knowledge and responsiveness to the marketplace is incredible.” He also reports that Delta’s current fill rate to distributor showrooms is “well over 90 percent,” and that’s welcome news: demand for Delta products is growing now, as post-recessionary housing starts and home values continue to strengthen, along with buyer confidence.
In addition to its dealer network, Delta is also pursing more home center distribution for certain products, and Carr says the company is making inroads there. “Our success in placing several models in thousands of stores builds awareness and shows the strength of the Delta brand.”
Strategically, Carr says, Delta’s target market for its future products will continue to be intermediate and advanced woodworkers. Over the past numbers of years, Delta’s product line has been restructured. A survey of Delta’s website will show that the breadth of the product line has slimmed from a decade or more ago. But Carr says this allows Delta to focus on “key items” that deliver value to consumers and performance indicative of the Delta brand.
This past January and February, for instance, Delta launched a number of new tools: four 10-in. table saws with various table and fence configurations, plus a 13-in. benchtop thickness planer (model 22-555), 20-in. variable-speed scroll saw (model 40-694), 6-in. midi jointer (model 37-071) and 6- and 8-in. variable-speed bench grinders (models 23-198 and 23-199). Several more new products will be unveiled in 2015.
If you happen to be in the market for a heavy-duty cabinet saw, Carr offers some good news. A competitive retail market for table saws has prompted Delta dealers to lower the retail pricing on Unisaw models. “That makes this premier saw category much more affordable without any change in the design or function of these saws.”
For those who own older Delta table saws or other tools that are no longer part of the current Delta product line, Carr encourages owners to understand that, while Delta will continue to try to help locate parts for out-of-production machines, those supplies must eventually dwindle. But, the company is committed to supplying parts for machines currently available for purchase and stands by Delta’s warranties to resolution.
While Delta has undergone an evolution in recent years, Carr assures that the company is invested in its future with new capital and a focus on engineering. Delta continues to be one of the top two brands owned by woodworkers, Carr says, ranking high on purchase consideration. “Going forward, Delta will move into new product categories, and we will continue to build on our heritage.”