What’s going on at Ridgid? This is a question that has been on many woodworkers’ minds since rumors began to circulate earlier this year about changes at the company. Great consternation has been shared over the company moving manufacturing offshore, Ridgid’s connection to Home Depot and Ryobi, and changes in its warranties. To get the facts, we turned to Jay Gatz, Ridgid Brand Manager.
Getting right to the heart of the matter, Jay acknowledged that the company’s updated line of woodworking tools, coming out later this month, was being manufactured offshore. But, according to Jay, that’s not really a big change for the company.
“Within the woodworking category,” Jay explained, “most brands are manufactured overseas or elsewhere. And outside of a few select items, the Ridgid tool line everyone knows from Home Depot — the gray line, if you will – was already sourced overseas.”
While the country of origin is an important consideration with the professional market, Ridgid’s intensive market research has shown that having the right product with the most value helps balance these concerns. The new line will feature a distinctive, new orange and gray color scheme, but the changes go more than skin-deep. Across the woodworking line, most of the tools have been given a workover and incorporate numerous adjustments and upgrades.
“We had this exact-line laser technology we wanted to incorporate into the miter saw,” Jay recalled. “We felt it was a tremendous benefit to the user … whether a home woodworker, professional cabinetmaker, or contractor. But the adjustments to the saw that were required opened up the opportunity to go back and look at the motor and at the switch. There are a lot of little upgrades done across the line like that, which nobody would see unless they opened up the tools themselves.”
These improvements are designed to appeal to both serious woodworkers and to Ridgid’s professional cabinetmaker and contractor market. The former group will continue to find the product line at Home Depot, but the professionals will be targeted through a new distribution channel.
“These would be described as your professional tool houses.” Jay noted, “Initially, our tools will probably land with what’s called STAFDA (Specialty Tool and Fastener Distributors of America) distribution. That’s a distributor organization of companies that sell power tools and tool accessories. Period. We’re also in negotiation with a number of other national tool houses.”
But according to Jay, that’s only the beginning. Ridgid’s other professional lines (mostly pipeworking and drain cleaning equipment) already have over 3,000 professional outlets in North America, and they are currently laying the groundwork to present the new woodworking tools and make them available through these channels. To extend our credibility to the woodworking products with these distributors and remain competitive, Ridgid had to find a manufacturer that would give them both quality and a good price point. They found that with TTI [Techtronics Industries, Inc, based in Hong Kong].
“Just five years ago, as Emerson,” Jay explained, “we had the largest manufacturing facility for power tools in the world, located in Paris, Tennessee. But then, as some of the categories like joiners and planers went offshore, so did we & to stay competitive. Over the years, our core competencies became design, research, and product development. And we turned to TTI, because they brought a core competency in manufacturing.”
And as Jay explained it, their partnership with TTI is a collaborative process. TTI had developed a repetitive process for manufacturing that enhanced the quality of the tools. This expertise, coupled with the components and technology TTI incorporated into the new Ridgid line, will allow the partnership to deliver the features and values that professional and other consumers appreciate, time after time.
And TTI already had plenty of experience with woodworking tools. They are an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) for many brands, and their house brand is Ryobi. But TTI’s connection to Ryobi, has caused some woodworkers to worry about their ability to maintain the quality of Ridgid’s woodworking line.
“The concern about the Ryobi connection is a valid concern,” Jay acknowledged, “but TTI has the manufacturing know-how, capacity, diversification, and the engineering to support different lines and different levels of quality. Because of their price point, Ryboi has been unfairly pigeonholed. And not enough people know that TTI also makes products for Metabo, Fein and Senco, brands most people regard as the highest caliber in performance, longevity, and design. And once our tools are in the marketplace and people have the opportunity to put their hands on them, get a look at them, kick the tires if you will, the concerns will cease to be a discussion point.”
For woodworkers, that opportunity should come soon. Jay expects the new tools will arrive at Home Depot before the end of September.
“We have a very strong partnership with Home Depot,” noted Jay, “though it’s not like the original woodworking line where the only place you could get it was the Depot. But I think you’ll see a fairly consistent presentation store to store at the onset. And the onus is on us to add value and pack the tools with features that will attract the professional buying customer as well as the tool enthusiast.”
Another change that got people talking was Ridgid’s switch from a lifetime to a three-year warranty. Jay explained that the new version only applies to new purchases, and Ridgid will honor whatever warranty was in place when the tool was purchased.
“The three-year warranty covers the stuff that would fail within the first three years,” Jay explained, “and that’s what people need. But the fact of the matter is, with the level of intensity that these tools have been designed — for professionals using and abusing them on average 32 hours each week — there aren’t many home users who could burn these tools up. It’s more than enough warranty, and it’s still the best one in the industry. After all, we’ve built and honored our reputation for over 82 years … and that will continue.”