Published: 22/10, 2018

The Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison, Texas, provided an appropriate setting for Hilti North America’s annual Innovation Day in September. With a collection of classic, envelope-pushing aircraft as backdrop, Hilti proudly demonstrated examples of products and services that have helped propel the North American unit of the Liechtenstein -based manufacturer to the heights of the highly competitive construction tool market.

Hilti North America has called the Dallas-Fort Worth area home since relocating its headquarters from Tulsa, Okla., to nearby Plano in 2015. The company’s 65,000-sq ft Western Hemisphere Product Development and Tool Service Center was also transferred to nearby Irving. The move, announced as a means for bringing Hilti closer to key talent pools and market segments, has enabled the company to capitalize on, and contribute to, the region’s sustained robust construction market.

“The market is good, and our customers are busy,” said Avi Kahn, who has led Hilti North America as president and CEO since January 2017. In his Innovation Day welcome, Kahn added that the company has made progress on its 2018 goals of strengthening its connections with customers by providing “VIP-level service,” accelerating the delivery of innovation, and, of course, increasing sales. 

Worldwide, Hilti has enjoyed double-digit growth for the past few years, including the first eight months of 2018, Kahn said, stressing that the company isn’t simply sitting back and enjoying the ride. 

“The strong results from good years like these are being used to help secure our future,” he explained, with significant investments in research and development, as well as expanding Hilti North America’s direct-sales network. One hundred new account managers were added this year, Kahn said, with a similar number expected to be added in 2019. Hilti is also upgrading its service centers in the U.S. and Canada as well.

On to the demonstrations
But it’s innovative products and enhancements aimed at boosting productivity, efficiency, and safety that Kahn said will truly set Hilti apart in North America. A variety of examples were on display at the various demonstration areas set up in the Cavanaugh Museum’s hangers and outdoors (mercifully shaded from the late-summer Texas sun).

Among them was the DD 30-W diamond coring tool, launched this past June. Equipped with a unique “TopSpin” technology, the DD 30-W is designed to set adhesive anchors in concrete with rebar up to five times faster than conventional methods. Even with operating speeds of up to 8,700 rpm, the DD 30-W is remarkably quiet. 

“That makes it ideal for working in tight spaces, or occupied buildings,” said product manager Jason Flam.

Designed for use with a stand or separately as a combi-hammer for walls and ceilings, the DD 30-W matches perfectly with the DD-WMS 100 water management system, which Hilti debuted at January’s World of Concrete. By recycling its four-gallon water supply up to seven times, the DD-WMS 100 essentially provides a 30-gallon supply for all-day drilling work.

“You can do 30 to 100 cores a day with the DD 30-W, depending on the type of material and other factors,” Flam said. Bits for the DD 30-W range from 3/8 in to 1-3/8 in (9.5mm to 35mm).

Another summertime product introduction on display was Hilti’s DSH 600-X gas-powered handheld saw. Joining the previous DSH 700-X and DSH 900-X models, the 21.7-lb (9.8kg) saw is optimally balanced for cuts of up to 5 in (127mm ) deep in masonry, concrete, and steel using 12-in (305mm) diamond blades. 

The DSH 600-X is also among the safest saws of its type on the market.  Hilti product manager David Stott demonstrated the brake technology that stops the high-spinning saw blade in just over five seconds. 

“So after finishing a cut, the operator can raise the saw and move to another location safely,” Stott said, adding that an aluminum belt guard is another safety feature that also enhances the tool’s ruggedness.

And with silica dust control still very much on contractors’ minds, Hilti product manager Ed Selz demonstrated the new cordless VC 75-1-A22 dry vacuum, with a HEPA filter cleaning mechanism that makes it an effective and highly mobile OSHA 1926.1153 Table 1 compliant adjunct to any concrete or masonry drilling operation.

Selz noted that the 75 cfm suction power is double that of any vacuum in its size class, and that an Eco mode is also available to maximize the life of its 22V, 5.2 Ah lithium-ion battery. 

“Yet, it’s also quiet, with a noise level of only about 70.9 db,” Selz added.

The VC 75-1-A22 is powerful enough to allow the DRS-D shroud to adhere to the wall, making drilling more convenient, and can be converted into a blower for clean-up operations. Its 8 ft (2.4m) further extends the vacuum’s reach.

The breadth of Hilti’s cordless portfolio was also exemplified by demonstrations of the TE 6-A22 rotary hammer drill, which includes a chiseling feature for light-duty corrective chipping, and the SIW 6AT-A22 impact wrench with the SI AT-A22 adaptive torque module for installing the company’s Kwik Bolt TZ and Kwik Bolt 3 anchors.

Hilti product manager Brian Helfrich explained that the combination system allows for fast mechanical anchor while also avoiding over- and under-torqueing. Pointing a built-in barcode reader at a box of Hilti Kwik Bolt anchors is all that’s needed to control automatically control the wrench’s torque. “The module also documents installation work for quality assurance purposes, with the information downloaded via a USB port,” Helfrich said.

Technology touchpoints
Demonstrating that accuracy is as important to jobsite performance as tool performance, Hilti product managers Aiden Maguire, Tim Jones, and Sonia Barbier provided details on several of the company’s measurement innovations. Among them was the PR 30-HVSG rotating laser level, which with a PRA 30G receiver, can make aligning drywall, ceilings, and utilities a one-person operation. 

“The ‘HVS’ designation stands for horizontal, vertical, and slope, meaning that the laser level can measure any angle,” Barbier explained. She also intentionally dropped the PRA 30G several times, illustrating how the device maintains its accuracy amid rough-and-tumble jobsite environments.

The PR 30-HVSG delivers accuracy within +/- 0.04-in (1mm) at 33 ft 10m. With the PRA 30G, it has a working range up to 985 ft (300m) diameter on detection mode, and 656 ft (200m) diameter on remote mode.

Hilti’s entrée into asset management technology was also featured with demonstrations of On!Track and the Hilti Connect smartphone app. Product manager Sean McMurray says the cloud-based technology can help contractors monitor the location and condition of their entire equipment fleet—vehicles, tools, even boxes—regardless of manufacturer.

“With On!Track, an inventory question that might have taken 45 minutes to process, can be answered in five minutes or less,” McMurray said.

By fitting tools with the AI T380 On!Track smart tag, the Hilti Connect app can provide equipment status within a 100 ft (30m) radius of a user’s, phone.

“But with multiple users linked together, the range can be vastly expanded,” McMurray, said, adding that the battery-powered tags last about three years. That may sound rather limited at first, he said, “but by then, the tags will have been upgraded to provide even more information and versatility, so refitting them makes sense.”

Innovation Day included an understandable element of intrigue—a sneak preview of some of the products Hilti plans to officially introduce at World of Concrete 2019 in January. Though details are confidential, it’s safe to say that the company’s cordless, 36V technology platform and software-based services will be recurring themes.

And considering that next year marks 40 years since Hilti North America relocated to Tulsa, Okla., where it maintains an operations center, some anniversary surprises would certainly seem in order.

“There’s a lot to look forward too,” Kahn said, “both for Hilti itself, and for our customers.”

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