From the November/December 1997 issue of USMA’s Metric Today.
by Joe DeBartolo, CMS
Black & Decker made the decision that new products should be designed in metric units in 1979. This occurred when the company’s Corporate hierarchy’s recommendation coincided with government encouragement for companies to “go metric”. Older customary designs were phased out over a period of years, as newer models were designed in metric measurement to replace them. However, derivative products, i.e., products that were not really new, but were repackaged, colored differently, or underwent cosmetic or other minor changes were not converted to metric until there was a re-design on those products.
The company, which has many overseas facilities, soon discovered a number of significant benefits of metrication, including the resultant electronic data transfer capabilities:
- It was easier to transfer production of a metric design.
- Transfer between design centers was greatly facilitated, and less prone to error.
- Joint designs, making use of expertise in widely separated design centers, became routine.
In addition to these benefits of metrication, it was found that calculations were faster, there were fewer errors, and there was faster detailing.
With drawings and files being easily transferred from one facility to another, a line of DeWalt power drills was developed, consisting of housings designed in the US, motors designed in Italy, and switches designed in Germany. The streamlining of the design efforts and data transfer enabled Black & Decker to leverage the strengths of various design centers, improve overall quality, and promote a modularity of design that enables manufacturing flexibility. The resulting line of DeWalt tools has been marketed worldwide and was an incredible success.
Other successful power tools developed fully in metric include the entire range of DeWalt, VersaPak, Workmate, and Wizard products. Household products include successes such as Dustbuster, Scumbuster, and the very popular Snakelight.
Black & Decker requires that its technical employees have a working knowledge of SI because, currently, all programs, and all drawing-practice manuals and new-design work are metric. Also, Black & Decker’s new design, manufacturing, and production equipment must have a metric capability. During the metric transition, suppliers and subcontractors had very few problems in fulfilling the company’s metric requirements. Today, about 90% of the Black & Decker documentation is metric. Non-metric documentation is required for parts and servicing of older customary designs that must be supported even though those products are no longer produced.
ED NOTE: The information for this article was provided to Joe DeBartolo by Glenn Gise, Design & Systems Manager for Black & Decker, North American Power Tool Division. DeBartolo first visited Black & Decker and learned about its transition to metric when, as Manager of Standards Engineering for Pitney-Bowes, DeBartolo led Pitney-Bowes’ metrication program. Later, under contract to the US Dept of Commerce NIST Metric Program (MP), he continued to communicate with Black & Decker while researching the report he was writing for the MP: Study to Identify Industries Positioned for Significant Impact on US Metrication (NIST GCR 96-686).