After more than 100 years, PORTER-CABLE has clearly earned its place as one of the most trusted names in power tools today. PORTER-CABLE is a brand with a proud history of innovation and has brought many firsts to the power tool industry. The company designs, manufactures and distributes electric and cordless power tools, pneumatic tools and compressors, pressure washers, generators and related accessories for the professional woodworking, commercial/residential construction, plumbing and electrical markets. Carpenters and woodworkers have come to depend on and trust PORTER-CABLE to help them do everything from putting the finishing touches on crown moulding to creating heirloom quality furniture to last a lifetime.
PORTER-CABLE typifies the American dream that came true for three men who wanted to make hard work easier. In 1906, R. E. Porter, G. G. Porter and F. E. Cable agreed to open a jobbing machine and tool shop out of their garage in Syracuse, N.Y. With an investment of $2,300, they manufactured an unusual array of items such as automobile tire pumps, type-forming machinery for L.C. Smith, illuminating gas lighters, machine tools and an old-fashioned pencil sharpener.
PORTER-CABLE began to focus on power tools in 1914 when it started marketing a line of revolutionary production lathes. The new lathes filled a niche in the market of expensive long-bed lathes that were impractical for the manufacturing of many small parts.
Shortly thereafter, W. A. Ridings joined the company as president in 1916. Increased demand, fueled by World War I, forced PORTER-CABLE to buy a manufacturing location in 1917 on North Salina Street in Syracuse, N.Y. The end of the war coupled with the start of the Great Depression left PORTER-CABLE’s plant idle. However, Ridings convinced the owners to go on the offensive by buying several tool companies, one of which – the Syracuse Sander Manufacturing Company – offered a line of disc sanders. Ridings’ insight helped the company survive and thrive in difficult times.
Pioneering Power Tools
In the early 1920s, a 21-year-old named Art Emmons was hired as chief engineer to lead a department of three men. Emmons proved to be one of the most prolific inventors of the 20th century. His vision and inventions literally changed how people worked, from a construction and woodworking perspective. In 1926, Emmons created his first masterpiece, the portable electric belt sander, which was appropriately named the "Take-About Sander."
Before its introduction, workers had to take the work to the tool, which proved to be laborious and time-consuming. The "Take-About Sander" helped PORTER-CABLE develop its niche – portable electric power tools. Despite economic conditions, sales continued to grow as this portable unit helped carpenters, craftsmen and boat builders shorten month-long projects into just days.
Three years later, Emmons unveiled another first-of-its-kind power tool – the helical drive circular saw. Its compact design, which was lightweight and powerful, has become the most widely used circular saw design in the United States. Additionally, Emmons invented the world’s first floor sander in 1929, which later spun off from PORTER-CABLE to become its own company and, more importantly, the market leader in floor sanding equipment today.
These introductions combined with the leadership of Ridings and a committed team led to the most successful year in PORTER-CABLE’s history during 1929. With sales of more than $550,000, its net profits were $52,000 – equal to the combined net profits for the five preceding years.
A History of Innovation
Portable electric power tools became increasingly popular during the 1930s. Although tools like the Take-About Sander cost more than a month’s wages, workers quickly realized the productivity gains and increased profitability resulting from taking the tools to the work. During the 1930s PORTER-CABLE hired manufacturer representatives to sell its line of portable units from the trunks of their cars. These representatives carried on-board generators in their vehicles in order to demonstrate products at remote jobsites.
PORTER-CABLE continued to invent several first-of-its-kind tools during the 1930s, and began to pioneer a few key innovations to improve the work environment. For example, dust collection (one of today’s hottest power tool topics), was introduced by PORTER-CABLE in 1931. During the late 1930s, the company began recognizing the semi-professional or home-shop audience by launching "Guild" tools which were sold exclusively through dealers.
By 1939, PORTER-CABLE employed 190 people and established an employee association. During an era when employee benefits were relatively non-existent, PORTER-CABLE helped finance bowling alleys, pools tables, and the establishment of a strong employee-based community. The company also created a profit-sharing program.
The War Effort
During the 1940s, PORTER-CABLE "rolled up its sleeves" as World War II erupted. The G-8 belt grinder (developed in 1939) played a big part in defense production. Such items as parachute harness hardware, disposable gas tank parts, torpedo parts, ammo loading bars and diesel engine parts were made by PORTER-CABLE.
As the war effort grew, so did PORTER-CABLE’s sales. By 1945, total sales were $2.6 million and the number of employees exceeded 325. The business from World War II expanded the company’s line of grinders and abrasive belt sanders.
PORTER-CABLE made great strides in the woodworking arena through the acquisition of the Unit Electric Company in 1948. This added a line of routers, shapers, planers, hinge-butt templates and related accessories to the line. Just one year later, PORTER-CABLE made another acquisition that positioned the company at the forefront of the woodworking market – the Sterling Tool Company of Chicago. By the end of the 1940s, PORTER-CABLE had successfully developed two key products that are still in production today – the orbital finishing sander and the model 100 router. These two products, combined with earlier innovations, are the foundation of PORTER-CABLE’s brand name recognition in the woodworking market.
PORTER-CABLE continued to create new solutions for hardworking Americans during the 1950s. With Emmons still driving product development, the company pioneered another first-of-its-kind power tool, the portable band saw. Again, his vision of bringing the tool to the work yielded another breakthrough that is still widely used today.
Not only did Emmons continue to develop key inventions, he also explored the idea of router interchangeability, which is still a competitive advantage for PORTER-CABLE today. For example, the Routo-Jig allowed its motor to be used interchangeably with several different types of bases. This versatility provided two tools in one making the purchasing decision easy for end-users. PORTER-CABLE also added drills, chainsaws, and even a riding lawn mower to its line. By the end of the decade, PORTER-CABLE had opened more than 13 service branches with a distribution base of more than 6,000 dealers. During this time, PORTER-CABLE sold 53 percent of all circular saws bought in the
In 1960, PORTER-CABLE was sold to Rockwell International. As a result of the acquisition, the venerable name "PORTER-CABLE" was changed to Rockwell. Although the name changed, Rockwell used dual labels for several years to help ensure end-users they were buying the same quality power tools PORTER-CABLE had manufactured for years.
It was during this era that Art Emmons retired in 1964. However, PORTER-CABLE’s legacy of innovation continued long after Emmons retired with introductions such as the orbital reciprocating saw and orbital bayonet saw. As the 1970s approached, Rockwell decided to launch a line of consumer-grade products to compete with Black & Decker. Consequently, the company opened a new manufacturing facility in Jackson, Tenn., and shortly thereafter, Rockwell consolidated all its manufacturing to that location. Although PORTER-CABLE was uprooted from its Syracuse, N.Y. home, many of the employees relocated to Jackson, Tenn. and began a new life in the South.
The economy continued to spiral downward in the late 1970s as did PORTER-CABLE’s success in consumer-quality power tools. The lower quality tools, labeled the "green line," began to hurt the company’s brand loyalty due to unprecedented returns and product failures. This was clearly the darkest period in the company’s history. As sales dropped, Rockwell realized that its forte was not in manufacturing power tools. It was not long before Rockwell began to look for suitors that might be interested in turning the company around.
Resurgence of Innovation
New life was breathed into PORTER-CABLE in 1981 when Pentair Inc. acquired the company. By investing
heavily into the business, Pentair Inc. sought to reclaim the company’s original position in the marketplace. Pentair Inc. focused on the two key ingredients – quality and innovation – as its formula for success. Appreciating the company’s unique heritage, Pentair Inc. made a good move by renaming the company with its original moniker, PORTER-CABLE.
In 1981, Pentair Inc. appointed Tom Ryan as president. Ryan wasted no time communicating that PORTER-CABLE would reinvent itself as a professional brand of power tools. The company refined its product offering by purging anything less than professional-grade quality from the line. At the same time, Ryan demanded the same spirit of innovation that Art Emmons once exemplified. It only took a few years for PORTER-CABLE to reincarnate itself as the most innovative professional power tool company in the industry.
In 1987, new products began to flow – beginning with the introduction of the first affordable biscuit joiner to the market. This was followed by the world’s first 12-volt cordless drill and the first electric random orbit sander in 1989. In 1992, the company strengthened its position in the sanding category by launching the world’s first palm-grip electric random orbit sander. New product awards continued to tout PORTER-CABLE’s innovative introductions. These included Time’s "Top Ten Products of the Year," Popular Science’s "Best of What’s New," and Popular Mechanics’ "Design and Engineering Award."
Not only was PORTER-CABLE expanding its product offering, the company was growing its sales while new channels of distribution were opened daily. Shortly after Tom Ryan retired, PORTER-CABLE entered the home center channels such as The Home Depot and Lowe’s retail stores. This increased production dramatically which resulted in expanding the Jackson, Tenn. facility and building a new 125,000 square foot distribution center.
PORTER-CABLE made a bold move in 1995 by entering the pneumatic nailer market. By leveraging its existing service network and offering a better value for a lower price, PORTER-CABLE quickly became one of the top three nailer manufacturers in the United States. One year later, PORTER-CABLE teamed up with another local manufacturer – DeVilbiss Air Power Company – to balance its line of nailers with air compressors.
In 1996, the Smithsonian Institution honored PORTER-CABLE’s 90 years of innovation by establishing the museum’s first collection of archived materials from a power tool company. The collection included an unusual array of company artifacts such as the original inventions; a router bit merchandiser from the late 1940s; old photographs; a bowling trophy from the 1930s; and even a name badge from an employee, James Cockrell, who had perfect attendance for 29 years. The Smithsonian Institution collection is now used in various exhibits all over the world.
PORTER-CABLE began to introduce an average of 50 new products each year. Moreover, for nearly a
decade, the company generated 50 percent of its sales from products introduced within the last five years.
The company’s manufacturing operation reached its highest level of productivity ever while continuously
introducing cost-saving measures.
PORTER-CABLE received one of the highest manufacturing honors a company can receive in 1999. Industry Week selected PORTER-CABLE as one of the "Top 10 Manufacturing Plants in the United States." The magazine evaluated criteria such as fill rates, manufacturing processes, new product development, employees programs and community outreach. Industry Week compared these criteria to more than 800 finalists to narrow down the list. PORTER-CABLE celebrated the award by holding an employee meeting during which the company’s longest tenured employee, a final-assembly team member, accepted the trophy on behalf of the company.
In January 2000, PORTER-CABLE consolidated with its sister company DELTA Machinery. DELTA Machinery relocated it headquarters and distribution center to Jackson, Tenn. from its Pittsburgh, Pa. location in early
January. DELTA Machinery began sharing with PORTER-CABLE several resources such as a newly constructed 425,000 square foot distribution center, new accounting and finance departments, and engineering and purchasing facilities. The efficiencies led to cost savings that went straight to the bottom line. These savings were passed on to end-users via lower price points.
Later that year, Pentair Inc. acquired DeVilbiss Air Power Company, which gave PORTER-CABLE and DELTA Machinery significant advantages for an expanded product offering. By the beginning of 2002, PORTER-CABLE introduced a complete line of compressors, generators, pressure washers and air tools to complement its line of power tools and air nailers – providing distributors with one brand for all jobsite needs. PORTER-CABLE has the broadest product offering available in the industry. Professionals and do-it-yourselfers increasingly turn to PORTER-CABLE to tackle the tough jobs that demand perfection.
A New Era
In 2005, Black & Decker purchased PORTER-CABLE and DELTA Machinery from Pentair Inc. Already a leader in the consumer tool category, the purchase solidified Black & Decker’s position in the professional power tool market.
PORTER-CABLE celebrated its 100th year in 2006, it is considered the premium brand of professional woodworking tools. As it has in the past, PORTER-CABLE will continue to center around quality, innovation and people. The spirit of Art Emmons lives on, and "Innovation" is still the credo the company will follow into a second century of producing remarkable tools for professional craftsmen.
Since 1906 Porter-Cable continues a tradition of producing innovative, high quality, professional power tools, equipment and accessories. That tradition of operational excellence continues today as a global manufacturer of a wide range of products with world-class performance, durability and reliability. We are a customer-focused organization that values its customers and their input. Customer feedback is vital to future innovation and continual improvement, not only in the manufacture of our product, but also in all our business processes. We are committed to understanding and responding to our customers' needs.
The Power Behind The Tools
As an ISO 9001 certified manufacturer, quality is a mindset and a "way of life" which we build into everything we do. Quality is built into all stages of our product and processes beginning with our "New Product Introduction" program and continuing throughout the product's life. We perform vigorous tests at every stage of the process in the product's life cycle to assure our product exceeds the performance and reliability standards expected by our customers. Customer satisfaction is always our primary objective.
Porter-Cable uses state-of-the-art CNC machining centers and motor winding cells to produce the highest quality components possible. Aluminum components are carefully machined and processed to provide close tolerances and surface finish to assure proper fit and function. Critical gears and pinions are meticulously fabricated from select cut steel and then heat treated for long lasting product life. Our heavy-duty series universal motors are professionally designed and processed to provide maximum horsepower as well as optimum balance to result in a smooth running product.
With our world-class manufacturing principles, we link through a common value system that drives objectives in priority of safety, quality, delivery, and cost through every process in our operation. We are positioned to take advantage of our core competencies: critical steel components; powder painting; die-cast machining; motor manufacturing and assembly just to name a few.
The vision for continued operational excellence in the future employs LEAN Manufacturing principles and techniques to forge a world-class environment. We fuel our lean manufacturing initiative through our Kaizen, continuous improvement events. Whether it be an event implementing standard work into a specific cell or assembly line, employing cellularization, focused problem solving, implementing KANBAN material control, employing SMED (Single-Minute-Exchange-of-Die) quick equipment change-over techniques, these events are reshaping the operational atmosphere to drive the vision of one-piece flow and continuous improvement throughout all our processes.
The true ability of any manufacturer to be successful- and remain successful- rests in the people who make the organization work. The most loyal and dedicated people in the world work daily to assure the best products are manufactured and shipped to our customers who appreciate and demand fine craftsmanship.
Great people, world-class processes, top-notch quality products and customer intimacy, that's what Porter-Cable is all about.
Smart Thinking, Smart Tools
At the forefront of technological advances for over 95 years, Porter-Cable has introduced such noteworthy products as the world's first portable belt sander in 1926 and the first right-hand, helical-gear circular saw in 1929.
This passion for progress flows through every product we offer. Our product line is the result of a dedicated team of researchers and engineers listening to what tool users have to say. This team is constantly looking for ways to improve our existing tools and dream up new ones.
One example of this ingenuity is the Tiger Claw, the world's first variable angle reciprocating saw. 180-degree joint adjustment and 360-degree blade rotation put every cut within reach. Expect more of these types of innovations from Porter-Cable driving into the future.
Today, Porter-Cable marks the standard of excellence against which all other tools are judged … an honor we've worked hard to achieve… and one we'll work even harder to keep.