Technology in tools has come a long way in the last few years. When you consider some of the major advances, we have advanced electronics for optimizing performance, improving cells in batteries and advancing battery designs to allow better cooling and performance for their tools. With so many creative additions we didn’t even know we needed but are so glad we now have, we also have the addition of Bluetooth technology. For tools, this has been a point of contest for many users. Is it needed? What does it really do? Why would I want it? Well, let’s dig in and find out more about the Milwaukee ONE-KEY Technology and answer these questions.
To give you all some context and explain just how I got the bug to learn more about Milwaukee’s ONE-KEY technology and what and who it really benefits, I’ll give you some background information. For me, I work in a home shop, my tools rarely leave it and if they do it’s usually with me or a trusted family member. So, when it came time to discuss the many perks of Bluetooth technology, my thoughts were somewhat surface deep. I wasn’t in a position to truly understand the pros and cons of their capabilities on job sites except in a practical way.
This, my friends, is where social media played a large part in my desire to explore this topic. I can’t tell you how many conversations you would see in the comments on posts both good and bad about this technology, and the reality is that most users simply didn’t understand its full potential. Even for me, as I mentioned, I didn’t share tools with a staff, or on job sites where tools have a tendency to wander off, nor did I fully understand their full use cases. But, thinking that’s who they benefited the most is somewhat of a misconception, now that I have used them, I am so glad I did.
Thankfully, I had a really great conversation with a friend of mine, Hugh. Hugh Draper, also known as @HDCarpentry on Instagram is an impressive guy, full of passion and commitment to the ONE-KEY platform. Our conversation started as more a comparison of things we had seen floating around social media and how he’s used his tools. A few days later, I had this urge to learn more about this and wanted to go right to the source to get some much-needed questions answered.
This brings us to Milwaukee’s New Product Symposium (NPS), a yearly event where Milwaukee showcases their upcoming tools and allows us time for some hands-on demos. I was invited, with a slew of other dedicated Milwaukee tool users and industry professionals, to view their upcoming launches and get a chance to use them hands-on. While we have talked a lot about their upcoming launches recently, it was also an ideal opportunity to sit down with some of their product team and discuss what ONE-KEY was really all about.
How does ONE-KEY work?
Within each ONE-KEY enabled tool, there is a small Bluetooth module installed that allows communication between a tool and the ONE-KEY app. Through this communication, you have the ability to track, secure, and manage your tools. With correct integration, you have the ability to also configure certain One-Key enabled tools to the work at hand.
In addition, communication from the Bluetooth module allows Milwaukee to use data for future tool development and service details. This is an essential asset to Milwaukee and serves to show their desire to continue driving innovation forward to produce the best tools possible. Bluetooth® is also used to expand Milwaukee’s network size so users get the best possible range and tracking capabilities. For instance, at NPS we learned that ONE-KEY is now the largest network of its kind. Since 2017 it has grown from 0.6M updates to 5.5M!
Who is ONE-KEY geared for?
Milwaukee as a whole manufactures power tools, hand tools, accessories, storage, and lighting for professional users. Their tools are tailor-made for professional applications and specialize in a wide range of fields from electricians and plumbers to power utility. They are well known for their lighting which suits all users and has recently branched into carpentry, drain cleaning, automotive and safety. With their feature sets, there is a wide range of users that make Milwaukee’s lineup the brand they turn too. They also develop all of the ONE-KEY software in-house.
What are the main goals of the Milwaukee One-Key Technology?
The overall goal of ONE-KEY comes down to boosting efficiency by saving time and money, two things any tradesperson would say is important to managing their business. Like all of their tools, the ONE-KEY system is designed to improve the functions of the tool but also improve a contractor’s management on a job site and from a back-end standpoint. With the ability to track their tools, manage inventory and the benefits of dedicated programming and lockout features, a lot of needed time is put back into a contractor’s pocket and they can focus more on the job at hand
Key Features of Milwaukee ONE-KEY
Track your tool’s location and control it remotely through the app. With the ability to see the last location for a tool, tracking down missing tools is quick and easy. If a tool is ever missing, you can easily isolate the last time it was connected, lock it out to make it useless if stolen, and hopefully find a way to recover the tool.
Management- Places and Crews
This is one of the most creative ways to manage your tool inventory. You have the ability to assign tools to a multitude of places as well as assign them to dedicated people. For large companies that can potentially manage thousands of tools as well as crew members, this is a genius way to maintain accountability and organization. On the location side, you can assign tools to a home or a vehicle, as well as a specific job site. Since it is incredibly common that tools maintain on-site for the duration of a project or ride in mobile vehicles in certain trades, having records of their assignments in an organized manner is a boost in efficiency and safety.
The assignment of people too, offers a wide range of uses as well. Within the app, you can simply import a person from your contacts or manually set them up. Additionally, you can add a photo, email, phone number, a division assignment, and even employee ID information. This was a well thought out portion of the App and one that is a huge benefit to larger companies.
The ability to program tools remains a significant benefit for a wide range of users. While some trades, such as general contractors can see a wide variance in the fasteners used with their tools, the majority of trade-specific users are dedicated to a few common types that all need tailored control. A perfect example is a mechanic. If he has a significant number of nuts that need to be configured to a strict measurement of foot-pounds, this provides a way to do so that is efficient and saves valuable time double-checking and prevents potential damage to the vehicle.
With the cost of building materials and skilled labor on the rise, having the capability to program your tools to operate under certain loads and within certain parameters serves a dual purpose. When discussing this feature with Hugh, he also felt that “ONE-KEY is designed for people that want to adjust the tool beyond factory preset settings”. In doing so, you have less potential to damage your fasteners and have less time spend rotating between modes and settings to find the sweet spot. Hugh felt that “ONE-KEY has been great for adjusting RPMs for drill bits to elongate bit life” something users commonly struggle with. Saving materials and time is a win all the way around.
Tool Safety is a huge factor in all tool development. Manufacturers often lean towards adding reduced kickback or torque control, and while all of that is beneficial, Milwaukee uses their ONE-KEY system to improve Jobsite Safety.
When you register and configure a tool within the ONE-KEY app, a few safety measures are added to your arsenal. With tracking being obvious, you also have the ability to disable a tool when needed to prevent unwanted use. Austin or Toolsatwork on Instagram feels the lockout feature is a huge plus of the ONE-KEY system on busy job sites, noting “I pulled out my phone and locked it (the tool) just so others wouldn’t be able to use it”. This is a significant benefit on busy job sites and multiple employees, as well as for tools that are left for short periods of time on site. This is an excellent measure of protecting your investment.
Another facet is that if a tool is ever stolen, you can lock the tool out remotely. When someone attempts to use the tool, it will not operate. Should this tool find its way to a Milwaukee service center, as the original registered owner you will be notified. While Milwaukee certainly isn’t turning tool thief vigilante, it is a comfort knowing these features will serve as a deterrent and could possibly lead to a recovery of the stolen too.
Assign your tools numbers, names and even photos to manage inventory. With the combination of tracking and the ability to assign the tools to various job sites and crew members, what once was a tedious task is now easier than ever. If a tool goes missing or is damaged, you can easily mark that tool as such and keep a precise record of your inventory.
What is the future of ONE-KEY?
One-Key is currently available on 35 tools, with even more tools being added to the lineup in 2019 and 2020. While the majority of the ONE-KEY tools exist on the M18 platform, the first M12 tool with ONE-KEY was showcased at NPS, the new M12 FUEL™ Digital Torque Wrench w/ ONE-KEY, which is intended for electrical installations.
From here, the plan seems to be to take the technology and run with it. I expect in 2020 we will continue to see not only the tools ONE-KEY is available on but also an expansion on how the features are utilized. As we look past the Bluetooth side, the potential for GPS tracking and bridging that gap doesn’t seem as far off as I would have thought.
Another huge fan of the ONE-KEY system is a good friend of mine, Bill Byrne from William Patrick Customs, also the host of the Grain Knockers Podcast feels that “ONE-KEY is and will be the ultimate link between user and tool and that’s exciting! Who wouldn’t want more from their tools? Milwaukee Is leading the way in this area and I have already started adding ONE-KEY to my inventory”. I have to say I echo Bills sentiments. If there is one thing that is guaranteed to come from Milwaukee, it is continued innovation. I can’t imagine seeing any slow-down in not only the tools that are produced from their team but also the continued expansion of their capabilities.
My Experience with Milwaukee ONE-KEY Tools
There is a slew of ONE-Key Tools on the market today, with so many more coming. I had the chance to get two of their tools in my shop to test the ONE-KEY system in use. Both the M18 Table Saw and their new M18 Impact Wrench.
The M18 Table Saw is a well-known Milwaukee Tool. It was one of the first tools that truly made a name for the ONE-KEY platform and with good reason. This Table Saw, model 2763 is powered by the M18 system and is no slouch in the performance department. This Table Saw has the same power as similar corded job-site saws and has a great variance of features that make this saw a staple in the Milwaukee lineup.
Key Features of the Milwaukee M18 FUEL™ 8-1/4” Table Saw w/ ONE-KEY (2736)
*24-1/2 inch Rip-Capacity
*600 Linear feet of cutting per charge on a 12 Ah battery.
*Rack and Pinion Fence, one of the best features on this saw. It runs smoothly and is easy to dial in for precise measurements.
*On-Board Storage for accessories. Included are the push stick, riving knife, and miter gauge.
* Single wrench blade change for simplicity.
*2-1/2 inch cut depth at 90-degrees and 1-3/4 at 45-degrees.
*operates at 6300 RPM
*8-1/4 inch blade with a 5/8 inch arbor
I was pleasantly surprised by how well this Table Saw performed considering it is cordless. For users who cut a significant amount of dimensional lumber, this saw is a true standout. The run time is impressive, and for a shop like mine, it works great for the small projects I often find myself immersed in. For job site use, this saw is a game-changer at providing stellar performance without the hassle of a cord.
One of the main features I love on the ONE-KEY side of the Table Saw is the ability to lock the tool. I have young kids, so while Milwaukee did an excellent job of integrating numerous safety measures into this tool, having the assurance that the saw cannot be accidentally activated is huge. For Jobsites, especially where there is more than one trade at a time working, this is a huge benefit.
The other tool I have in my shop that was a huge step forward in the Milwaukee ONE-KEY lineup of features is their new M18 Impact Driver, model #2857-22. Being one of their newest additions, this was a perfect opportunity to test more of the advanced capabilities of ONE-KEY and it didn’t disappoint. This tool allowed me to explore the programming side of the ONE-KEY system.
Key Features of the M18 FUEL™ w/ ONE-KEY 1/4” Hex Impact Driver (2757)
*2000 inch-pounds of torque
*Brushless Motor for enhanced power and performance.
*Compact design, measuring 4.59 inches in length.
*The ability to switch between 4 custom drive modes for ease of use when switching between common fasteners.
*One-handed bit insertion
*1/4-inch hex bit compatibility for a wide range of uses.
This Impact Driver quickly became my go-to Impact. I have used the M12 Impact Driver religiously for quite some time, and the small footprint and lightweight made it an easy tool to love. This M18 Impact is still quite compact and light but offers a significant boost in power.
This model also showcases the power of ONE-KEY well. I tend to drive a few types of fasteners with relative consistency. Rather than rely on a factory preset, I have the ability to adjust settings like Speed and Trigger Ramp Up, as well as engage the Precision Mode and even control the length of time the light stays on. You can also Reset the tool to factory settings should it be needed.
Milwaukee is a manufacturer who focuses on innovation that matters or as they call it “disruptive innovation”. Their tools are less about the fluff, rather they dedicate their time to making sure their new products and technology focus in on the needs of the end-user. They are a professional tool manufacturer and when it comes to the time and energy spent on development, they don’t waste time. Rather, they focus on what they need to do and how they need to get there to provide the best experience for the user.
ONE-KEY is without a doubt, an incredible system to use. Milwaukee designed it to be user-friendly and after time spent with the compatible tools and the interface, there is no doubt that the time spent on this product integration was well worth it. I absolutely love the ability to control, track and lockout my tools. Beyond that, they are awesome tools to start with.
To me, I see an incredible amount of potential for future tool additions as well. I spend a lot of time woodworking, and the potential in nailers, miter saws, routers and especially in tools like Drivers and Drills, you can’t ignore just how useful it would be to have things dialed in with little effort.
Ultimately, Milwaukee has certainly learned that the biggest priority on any job site is efficiency. A lot of their tools are geared to solve an issue and ONE-KEY is no exception.
Have questions about ONE-KEY still? Leave them below and I will get them answered for you!