A few months ago, RC Publisher Jill Bloom and I were invited by the Hilti Corporation to attend an exclusive gathering called the Innovation Experience in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. There was something they wanted to unveil to only a select few influencers and contractors in the industry. Something big.
Always at the ready for adventure, we departed in late October to Switzerland with so many questions, and no real idea of what was in store. What I can say though, is that what we saw exceeded all of our expectations.
Upon our arrival in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland, where we would be staying during our trip, we got acclimated to the hotel room. Which, didn’t take us long. We were made for those suites. In the room was a special room service menu curated by Hilti for us, and a Hilti bag full of Swiss treats.
The next morning we took a 30-minute cable car ride up to the Swiss mountains, where we’d be having brunch. When we reached the top of the mountain we were greeted with a low-pitched, welcoming, triumphant, and natural sound – in between two Hilti banners stood three men playing the alphorn.
After giving everyone a chance to soak in the view, we went inside The Chäserugg. At 7,420 feet, the Chäserugg, built in 2015, sits atop the easternmost peak of the seven mountains that make up the Churfirsten Massif. The backdrop of the Alps stretches all the way to the horizon. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the restaurant features a wood interior—echoing local Switzerland building tradition.
Before brunch began we met Michele Frey-Hilti. Acting currently as the managing director of the Hilti Family Foundation, Frey-Hilti will join the Board of Directors in April 2022, representing the Hilti family. Frey-Hilti told us what Hilti was all about.
A Brief History of Hilti
Hilti was founded in 1941 in Schaan, Liechtenstein, by Frey-Hilti’s grandfather, Martin Hilti, and his brother, Eugene Hilti. It started out as a workshop, where they supplied components to other industries that produced product. Then in 1948, her grandfather came in contact with direct fastening systems. But at that time, fastening was a very different technology.
“So, you would fasten the nail into the wall and sometimes it worked, sometimes it went through the wall, because you can imagine it was like a high-velocity gun at this point,” Frey-Hilti said. “You had the nail and the cartridge and you fired and you hoped for the best. Or you fired it into the wall, it ricocheted and came back at you.”
It caused a lot of injuries and even death. Suffice to say, it was dangerous. So, Martin Hilti took the technology of the idea further, and in the mid-1950s, Hilti introduced a safer technology that enabled customers to fix nails into concrete. Still fearing the technology, customers wouldn’t buy it. That led to the birth of Hilti’s Direct Sales System, where reps went out to demo its improved safety features.
Since then, Hilti grew into a company with over 16,000 products in its portfolio and over 30,000 employees around the globe. With over 75% of them having daily interactions with Hilti customers, the customer experience is at the center of Hilti’s mission.
“Everything we do, we want to seize the opportunities to make the customer more productive and to really help them push their business forward. And this is really what also keeps me going,” Frey-Hilti told us.
Martin Hilti had four children. The family decided they wanted to have long-term development for Hilti to protect the company from divorce, family disputes, etc. The children decided to sign an inheritance waiver that enabled them to cumulate all of the shares into a trust. This trust has three purposes: secure the long-term development of the Hilti Group; ensure safety and security for the Hilti family; and the philanthropic interest of the family.
“That’s a very important topic for us. This topic of giving back. Because we are really lucky to have a company that is successful and also makes a profit which we can now also invest in giving back to the community,” Frey-Hilti said.
The Hilti Foundation
With one out of four people worldwide living in substandard housing, the Hilti Foundation decided to invest in new and innovative technology that addresses the vast need for sustainable, disaster-resistant construction.
Frey-Hilti focused on the work of the foundation and what they do in terms of social impact in the world. The foundation aims to have a sustainable impact on a large scale, working toward the goal of “building a better future.”
The foundation reshaped its strategy – most recently in 2018 – to focus on three main topics: music for social change, economic empowerment, and affordable housing.
“All three focus areas are linked to our goal to support people to develop themselves to their full potential. We all know it, talent is distributed fairly. It’s everywhere. Every child is born with talent,” said Christine Rhomber, who joined the Hilti Foundation in 2012. “It’s about skills. Every child is born with certain skills but what’s lacking are opportunities.”
The Innovation: Nuron
After the cable car ride down the mountains, the bus brought us back to our hotel for the big reveal – the reason Hilti flew us all to Switzerland. Upon our arrival to Verrucano Mels, located in Mels, Switzerland, Hilti employees Ruedi Wagner and Andres Bong sat fireside with us to discuss Hilti’s commitment to innovation. Then, we were led to a theater – with a walkway lit with red lights that contrasted marvelously with fog from the blue-lit theater that seeped into the hallway. All along the way soft, curious music welcomed us and we were told to sit and face the curtain. With the anticipation at its peak, the curtain spread as the room darkened, and a video introduced us to Nuron.
The 22-volt cordless battery platform is touted for performance, health and safety, compatibility, and data-driven services, all without compromise. Launching with more than 70 tools, Nuron enables Hilti customers to work at a jobsite fully cordless with built-in connectivity while increasing safety and your tools’ jobsite durability.
After the video ended, Hilti Group CEO Christoph Loos stepped onto the stage and told us that breakthrough innovation was part of Hilti’s DNA. Yet, never before had Hilti introduced so many tools at once with such a strong “value proposition.”
“With Nuron, we’re launching an entirely new battery platform that provides a much higher performance, is less complex, makes tool-part management much easier, and provides additional safety features. Based on a single battery system, it covers applications from light duty drilling all the way to heavy duty, concrete chiseling and cutting,” Loos said.
What Nuron Tools to Look Forward To?
The next day, we traveled to Liechtenstein to visit Hilti’s Global Headquarters where we were able to test out all 70 Nuron tools.
Early on, we decided we would be trying out any tool we could get our hands on. The first one being the AG 6D-22.
I was feeling good and ready to try the angle grinder after two Hilti employees presented the tool and explained the safety features (featuring ATC and a capacitive grip). Still, after seeing how many sparks came flying, I couldn’t help being a little nervous. But, I stepped right up, put my gear on and used the application.
Though a normally strenuous application – one that would normally leave wrists and fingers cramping within minutes – it was seamless and simple. And I felt like I was in control of it. The capacitive grip allowed for comfort and the ATC reduced the worry that something might go wrong in the application.
Good news roofing contractors, you can get excited about the whole portfolio, starting with the safety equipment.
“All the tools come with a tether, so you can tether off any of the tools that are going to be used on a roof or worked on a tight angle, so roofing contractors are going to benefit that everything on the platform can be used with a tether,” said Matt Jackson, Hilti’s senior director of marketing.
Contractors can also look forward to the launch of nine new saws.
“So whether you are doing work on the ground that’s going to later go up on the roof or if you’re working directly on the roof, you’re going to find power and performance, but when there’s any kind of a bind, the tools are going to protect you,” he said.
Jackson also explained that researchers found that a lot of roofing contractors work on tight angles, and the ATC feature will prevent that tool from throwing roofers somewhere they don’t want to be on a roof. The ATC is even available on one of Hilti’s smallest rotary hammers and drills, such as the TE 4-22 and the TE 6-22.
What Jill and I were able to experience in Switzerland was life-changing. We were able to see firsthand how revolutionizing Nuron can be for our industry.
Nuron products will be on sale to U.S. and Canadian customers in January, with shipments beginning in March. See more coverage of the exclusive journey to Hilti headquarters, including more photos, videos and tool descriptions at roofingcontractor.com.