Okay, so I’m a tool junkie, so sue me. Last week when I was back home in Indiana on vacation—yes, my wife and I sing “Back Home Again In Indiana” when we cross the border; our girls just roll their eyes—I couldn’t help but swing by the U.S. headquarters of the German-based Festool tool company. After originally setting up shop in southern California, Festool moved its offices to Lebanon, Indiana, about an hour northwest of Indianapolis. On a sidenote, Lebanon is famous for producing Rick Mount, one of the best high school and college basketball players (for Purdue) in history.
So on Friday I was welcomed by Rick Bush and Michael Williams, two guys who share my love of tools. Rick showed me around the warehouse where Festool stores and ships all its products as well as parts for all its tools. I was encouraged to see products flying off the shelves and onto trucks—a good sign for the sagging economy we’ve been mired in the past two years. A few points I found intriguing. First, windows surround the building, allowing lots of natural light in. That’s good for energy conservation as well as morale. Second, rather than storing tools and accessories on the warehouse shelves grouped by tool category—all the sanders together with their sanding discs, etc.—Festool shelves products in order of what sells best. This way workers don’t hustle around getting the most common things; they’re all closer to the front. The second thing is how things stack on the European-style pallets. These pallets are exactly as wide as three Festool Systainers, the plastic boxes everything comes in. So everything—well, almost everything—fits neatly on the pallets, and the Systainers provide protective hard edges ready for shipping.
After that we went to the repair center, where technicians work every day on the few Festool tools returned for service. Rick says most tools sent in are repaired and shipped back within 48 hours. That’s impressive. “We don’t want anyone to ever fault us for having poor customer service,” Rick says, “so we stay on top of every piece that comes in.” The most common repairs: motor brushes and power switches.
Next I got to see the training rooms where Festool instructs its retailers as well as some customers how to operate and get the most use from their tools. And finally, Michael rejoined us to go over some new tools Festool will launch this summer, later this year, and early 2011. Most of these I can’t share with you, but rest assured you’ll be impressed with what’s on the horizon. I can tell you about the new shop vacuums. Festool will launch next month two new models, a CT26 ($550) and CT36 ($600) that will replace the current CT22 and CT33 vacuums. These models have twice the capacity of the existing models, with the paper bags being replaced by a 5-micron fleece bag with a zipper on the bottom for dumping. They’ll still have the industry-leading HEPA filters to collect any fine dust that might get through the bags. These vacuums also have a cord wrap on top housed by a plastic rim, and have a front-mounted wheel lock.
And a first for Festool: imperial measurements! In its accessory lines is a new set of 7 brad-point drill bits from 1/8″ to 1/2″, all with hex shanks. Also included in the set is a a countersinking bit with a hex shank. This set sells for $125.
As for the rest of the stuff, I’ll report on it as it becomes available. Until then, if you’re in the neighborhood of western Lebanon, honk at the Festool folks as you drive by.
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