Porter-Cable: Refocused on Woodworking

Porter-Cable: Refocused on Woodworking

Founded in 1906, Porter-Cable is the oldest portable power tool manufacturer in the country. Taking credit for inventing the router, planer, helical circular saw, and belt sander, the company quickly staked out a leading position in the woodworking market and has maintained its success and popularity ever since. In recent years, however, the company had shifted its focus to include industrial markets.

Then, 18 months ago, the company revisited its heritage in the woodworking market. Bob Kibbe, Porter-Cable’s Vice-President and General Manager, filled us in.

“We made a strategic decision to go back at the woodworking market,” Bob recalled. “We have a department at Porter-Cable solely devoted to product innovation. They’re currently focusing on woodworking products and how to bring true innovation to our sanders, routers, and planers. We’re concerned about improving performance and making woodworking easier for our customers. You’re going to see that with all the new products we’ll bring out to the marketplace over the next few years.”

You won’t have to wait long to see the results: come this August, at the National Hardware Show in Chicago, they’ll be introducing a group of products that reflect this new focus. Bob gave us a preview.

“We’re introducing a new router based on feedback from our end-user base that our two-year old model 7529 didn’t measure up,” Bob explained. “We listened and created a router with a less complicated plunge mechanism, an above table height adjustment dial, a more durable switch, and other upgraded features for a longer life. Our goal was to develop easy ways to get precision, and redesign it for sophisticated hobbyists to use both in free-hand applications and under the router table. The result is the new model 8529 router.”

Also to be introduced at the show is a new laser-guided miter saw. Unlike an earlier discontinued version, the advanced technology of the 3802L model is easier to calibrate and less delicate during transport. On top of that, the saw uses two lasers that pinpoint the kerf of the blade.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Porter-Cable’s reputation among woodworkers remains unchallenged & especially among users of its routers, belt sanders, and random orbit sanders, and although DeWalt/Black and Decker still leads the entire professional power tool industry, Porter-Cable’s share of the woodworking segment is twice that of its nearest competitor.

And with the woodworking segment growing at an unprecedented 6% since 2001, the company is intent on defending its share. It’s brought in a new advertising agency to spread the word on its woodworking products. Even more directly, the company has established a group of brand builders who, through cabinet shop demonstrations, make sure end users are aware of all of the latest innovations.

What are some of the trends in woodworking today?

Interestingly, according to Bob, as people are buying more tools, they are actually spending less time using them. The explosive growth of the Internet has led to more talking about woodworking and less time doing it. In another important trend, women are getting more involved in woodworking, and Porter-Cable’s innovation department is busily researching this fast growing market. And in a testament to Porter-Cable’s philosophy that one size no longer fits all, they are preparing to launch a new line of cordless drills with adjustable soft grips.

Bob Kibbe knows what he’s talking about. He’s been with the company since he graduated from the University of Texas, rising steadily from an area salesman in Houston to his current position at the company headquarters in Jackson, Tennessee. He’s also an accomplished woodworker himself. His biggest project to date: 34 feet of maple cabinets with wine racks, Corian counter tops and sinks, a dozen drawers, and thirty raised panel doors. The challenge of the four-month-long project helped him understand just how seriously Porter-Cable customers take their tools.

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