Entering Mechanical Space, Greenlee Relies on Core Competencies

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Nathan Harwood is no stranger to challenges in high-leverage management environments. With a background in the automotive and aviation industries, and with Greenlee the past four years, newly appointed Vice President and General Manager, Mechanical, Harwood is now responsible for growing the mechanical segment of the business, developing a strategic pathway, and developing products for the marketplace.

Harwood has been tasked with taking the firmly and reputably established electrical and utility company and creating a mechanical division, which will feature high-end tools for the end user. “We’ve established ourselves over many years as a leader in professional tools and we’ve leveraged our engineering expertise to establish ourselves as the go-to brand for the high-end professional products for electricians. I think a lot of the same products and expertise translate into the mechanical space,” says Harwood.

For 155 years now, Greenlee has been designing, engineering and manufacturing tools for professionals largely here in the United States. The company has recently kicked off its “Building America” campaign to highlight more than a century of designing, building and packaging products in the United States. The Rockford, Ill.-based company supports its local manufacturing workforce, as well as, five other manufacturing facilities and one distribution facility across the nation. Since 1862, Greenlee has utilized a combination of traditional hand craftsmanship and state-of-the-art equipment to produce high-quality tools. Rockford is the company’s home for manufacturing knockout punches, dies, auger bits and other tools for professionals in the electrical and mechanical trades.


Dale Speggen, product manager, Greenlee, checks the diagnostics on the Gorilla pressing tool. hese new pressing tools utilize intelligence for accurate pressing and are designed with Autostop technology, which automatically stops the piston when the optimal force is reached, sealing the fitting properly.

Leveraging this moving forward is key. “With several factories and a solid manufacturing footprint in the U.S., we can introduce products that are very specific to mechanical tradespeople,” says Harwood.

Greenlee is dedicated to bringing products that are focused on solving problems faced by contractors. “We can bring high-end type products to market that maybe others don’t because it won’t sell hundreds of thousands of units,” says Harwood.

Greenlee has a full line of professional hand tools and are now adding in the specialty tools (See Product Sidebar). “We have specialty products that we are working on; we are reimagining them and taking it [the product] to the next level by putting it through our engineering pipeline. That pipeline includes more higher value-type specialized products that the market has not seen too much of that are going to help primarily in larger industrial and commercial-type applications,” says Harwood.

Harwood admits that with some strong players in the marketplace, competition will be a challenge. While mechanical contractors have heard of Greenlee in the electrical space, says Harwood, the company needs to earn its way into the plumbing and mechanical market. “We want to make sure our message is clear. We are going to try to bring high-quality, reliable tools that are very specific to the mechanical trade. We are Professional. Nothing less.”


Greenlee’s “learning lab,” equipped with the latest products, hosts contractor training classes throughout the year.

Greenlee’s parent company acquired Klauke in 1996, for example, has brought high quality and impeccable reputation to the hydraulics space. “We are leveraging Klauke’s engineering expertise in battery-powered hydraulics as it relates the specific needs of the North American market,” says Harwood. Klauke helps introduce next-generation products, which integrate connectivity and smart tool technology that bring good value to the end user, says Harwood. “For instance, the Gorilla™ Press tool includes a pressure monitoring feature that ensures a proper press fitting is made. Once the tool reaches optimal pressure, the piston is automatically returned to the starting position. If the force is below specifications, the operator is alerted in real time by both an audible and visual que on the tool.”

Ergonomics is a key part of the Greenlee message, as well. Focused on weights and balances, and every ergonomic aspect of a specific tool, Greenlee employs a classically trained ergonomics specialist that puts every one of its products through a rigorous testing process to make sure that the design is giving the end user the best possible chance at keeping their bodies healthy. Bottom line: Working with a more ergonomic tool means that the end user is less likely to have life-long ailments such as musculoskeletal disorders—carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative disc disease, etc. “Greenlee’s investment in ergonomics is an investment in the professional,” says Harwood.

Relationship Building

Convincing distributors to put Greenlee products on their walls is also challenging, but with a dedicated, 100% full-time mechanical sales team in place, Harwood is confident in the value of the products and the Greenlee brand through strong relationship building.

This is where the strength of Greenlee’s Professional Tool Specialist program plays a significant role in the relationship in the field. Launched in 2012, Greenlee’s PTS program brings former trade professionals and end users together by having Greenlee specialists travel the country in trucks decked out in with the complete Greenlee tool portfolio. “With 14 PTS professionals across the country, we are able to show end users how our products can and should be used in the field, and the benefits to them.”


Professional Tool Specialist (PTS) Brian Kester readies his truck for a day in southern Wisconsin. Brian meets with multiple clients per day, offering training and customer service, and allows clients an up close look at the latest Greenlee tools.

Admittedly, primarily known on the electrical side, “we’re still leveraging quite a bit on our mechanical side, as well,” says Harwood. “Industry experts driving our tool-filled trucks can go to a jobsite and can demonstrate the tools and their ergonomic value. This brings an added dimension to our brand recognition.”

Friendly Neighbors

It doesn’t hurt that Greenlee’s corporate headquarters near Rockford, Ill., is situated right next to a Local UA apprentice training center. It’s a win-win for both as having them next door to gives Greenlee great feedback, and it gives the UA new products.

“You’ve got some really experienced tradespeople there doing the training, setting our products up and being able to see it and use it, and train on it with an apprentice. The students see and experience the Greenlee brand inside of their Local UA, these are products they may need as mechanical contractors moving forward,” says Harwood.


Greenlee product engineers have teamed up with in-house ergonomics specialists to design tools that alleviate some of the underlying causes of common injuries. Greenlee’s Gorilla Press tools, for example, require less gripping force than the tools of competitors, thereby reducing strain on necks, arms and shoulders.

“What are the real problems and the real challenges that end users face everyday and how can we help solve that?” asks Harwood. “Greenlee is going to bring the more than 155 years of experience to the marketplace. We’re going to continue to focus on the mechanical space by bringing top quality products that we expect will differentiate the way contractors do work and keep them safer while they do it,” says Harwood.


Gorilla Pressing Tool

gorillapresspistolGreenlee Textron Inc. has launched a new line of Gorilla pressing tools designed for joining pipe safely by eliminating the need for an open flame and a hot work permit on the jobsite.

The new Gorilla pressing tool line features two separate tool platforms: the inline battery pressing tool (INLNPRESS-TOOL19kN) and the pistol grip battery powered pressing tool (PSTLPRESS-TOOL32KN). Both tools quickly press watertight connections in three to four seconds. The tools can be used while a system is still wet, unlike with soldering, so the contractor does not have to drain the system and wait for it to dry before pressing. The inline pressing tool has a fitting capacity of 1-1/2” (38.1mm) on PEX and 1-1/4” (31.8mm) on copper and stainless steel, and the pistol grip pressing tool has a fitting capacity of 2” (50.8mm) on PEX and 4” (101.6mm) on copper and stainless steel. The tools have a patented twist and release pin, making jaw exchange even easier. The kits come with four jaws for the inline and six for the pistol grip.

These new pressing tools utilize intelligence for accurate pressing and are designed with Autostop technology, which automatically stops the piston when the optimal force is reached, sealing the fitting properly. Precise pressure monitoring and diagnostics ensure appropriate specifications for each fitting. The Quickstop feature built into both tools elicits an immediate stop to the piston once the trigger is released safeguarding the user’s hands from pinch points. The lightweight design, 350-degree rotating head, and LED work light allow for both products to be used in dark tight spaces.

For more info, www.greenlee.com.

Next Generation Tool Bags

These bags are engineered to reduce strain on the user and withstand wear and tear. In addition, the two backpacks allow for customization with a personalized name patch.

“Greenlee is committed to producing ergonomic tools and products that reduce injury and increase productivity to support the professionals who use them daily,” said Dale Speggen, product manager at Greenlee. “Our network of professional contractors helped to test the Next Generation tool bags and provided valuable feedback. We are confident these durable, long-lasting and lightweight bags will help get the job done.”


Engineered to be rugged, the Next Generation tool bags can manage heavy loads and harsh work environments. Next Generation bags are constructed from a poly and nylon Ripstop fabric. This construction contains any tear that should ensue, maintaining the durability and utilization of the bag. Critical seams that receive stress from weight are reinforced with double and triple stitching to prevent separation. Next Generation bags are lined with a light green interior to increase visibility of bag contents. A durable, hard plastic bottom keeps dirt and water out and allows the bag to stand in an upright position for easy access.

For more info, www.greenlee.com.

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