After just thirty years, this company's dedication to quality and reliability has put them on top of their industry, and they have no intention of slowing down. Bill Walsh has the story.
Makita U.S.A., Inc. opened its doors in New York in 1970. Its parent company, Makita, had been in operation in Japan since 1915, and was chiefly involved in building electric motors. This was its first facility in the United States. Now operating on American soil, its catalog consisted of fewer than 20 tools, although its reputation was already well-established. Its innovations in manufacturing dependable, reliable power tools such as saws, drills and sanders soon created a huge demand for Makita products. Sales increased steadily each year, and within five years, distribution centers were opened in Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston. Now, not quite 30 years later, there are seven distribution centers and over 1000 authorized service centers nationwide. Makita’s humble selection of fewer than 20 tools has exploded into full lines of just about any cordless tool and accessory imaginable, power drills, fastening tools, grinders, polishers, sanders, hammers, outdoor equipment, planers and plate joiners, compressors and pneumatic tools, routers and saws and woodworking machines. This tremendous growth and success is due to Makita’s determination to make the best, most reliable, and most innovative power tools available. As Vice President of Marketing Ken Hefley says, “This company is committed to power tools. That is the heartbeat of our company. We don’t make toasters, we don’t make microwave ovens; we make power tools, period. We’re dedicated to making sure that our tools meet the user’s needs.”
Makita’s most significant investment was in 1984, when it created Makita Corporation of America (M.C.A.). The company spent more than $100 million to build a 430,000- square-foot manufacturing and research facility in Buford, Ga. This state-of-the-art facility employs more than 1,100 workers, and boasts the most advanced designing and manufacturing technologies, as well as the most stringent quality testing available. In fact, Makita has invested a considerable amount of money to test the actual testing equipment. Dollars that could have been spent on advertising and marketing are instead used for further development. Hefley says, “We build quality with our brand, and we sell products with our name. Simply put, Makita is a product-driven company. We’re not a marketing company.”
Makita’s AC motors are built on an automated assembly line. Each component is made of the highest-quality materials and is tested on the line before it becomes part of a Makita motor. The employees assemble the tools by hand, operating as work cells rather than an assembly line. This assembly method is more efficient, more interesting for the worker and virtually eliminates mistakes. Repetitive, time-consuming tasks such as case assembly are automated. Finally, tools are selected at random for endurance testing- they are dropped, used continually, and used on difficult tasks. Makita also subjects the competition’s tools to this rigorous testing to ensure tools are the best. M.C.A. has built more than 20 million tools in just 15 years of existence, and each one has been subjected to a final test run under power and hand-packed before it leaves. Makita’s employees take a great deal of pride in what they build; as Hefley says, “Our pride in our products is second to none. All of our tools must be worthy of the Makita name, and they are.” Makita also has the fastest delivery in the industry. With seven massive distribution centers serving thousands of dealers and distributors, and more than 50 Makita-owned factory service centers across the country, orders are always filled within three days to ensure quick service.
20th Anniversary of the Cordless Drill
In 1979, after 10 years of development and testing, Makita introduced the first cordless drill. The advantages of this product were quickly realized; tradespeople, contractors and people working on household projects alike recognized the tremendous increase in convenience and efficiency. Never a company to rest on its laurels, Makita has spent the past two decades in-vesting in research and development to increase power and battery cycle life, shorten recharging times and consistently making longer-lasting cordless power tools.
Commemorating its 20th anniversary, Makita recently introduced a special edition of its cordless drill, featuring a revolutionary Nickel-Metal Hydride battery. Generally used in products such as cellular phones and laptop computers, a Nickel-Metal Hydride battery supplies 30 percent longer run time than its nearest competitor. Combined with its superior Makita motor, which lasts up to five times longer than other brands, this product is both a fitting tribute to 20 years of innovative cordless tools of unsurpassed quality and is yet another example of Makita’s ceaseless efforts to improve.
First Commercial Tool Used by NASA
In December 1998, Makita’s hard work and reputation for quality and reliability were rewarded with a tremendous honor: The Makita 6213D Driver Drill was taken aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour for use on the international space station, making it the first commercial power tool used in outer space by NASA.
NASA realized they them- selves couldn’t improve upon that particular tool, and that is just one example of Makita’s superbly-built, user-friendly products. Makita makes a portable table saw that weighs just 40 pounds, yet features a powerful 15 AMP motor. Other features include an electric brake, miter applications and a large table that measures more than four square feet. Its sanders have standard features such as powerful, long-lasting motors, comfortable handles and low noise output. Makita belt sanders feature labyrinth internal construction, which seals the motor and bearings from contaminants and dust which can cause premature motor failure. Makita orbit sanders feature a through-the-bag dust collection system and speed control during start-ups to eliminate accidental damage to work pieces. Makita hand-held grinders have amenities such as a lightweight but powerful motor, a 90-foot rotating head and labyrinth construction for longer motor life. In 1993, Makita expanded into yet another market when it introduced its line of outdoor power equipment, which includes chainsaws, lawnmowers trimmers, and edgers.
“Constantly Pushing the Envelope”
“Makita is constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to introducing new products.” Says Hefley, “We’re introducing fifty new products in 1999 alone.” Among their innovative new products are the first cordless circular saw that cuts fiber-cement/metal/wood with a dust collector, a cordless compound miter saw and a cordless planer.
Makita’s sales continue to grow, and they continue to introduce new and innovative new products. By keeping an eye on the newest manufacturing techniques and technology, and by listening to what the customers need and what the market demands, Makita’s success has grown and continues to do so. As Hefley says, “We stay attuned to the marketplace, and we support the market. That’s why we’re on top. and poised to stay there.”