- IDEA Winner
- IDSA Design & Business Catalyst Award Winner
- DeWalt Plate Joiner Editor's Choice
- Capabilities Used
- Industrial Design
The Worksite Radio/Charger was a defining product for our DEWALT Brand and for the entire cordless category. It has since become an unmistakable icon in the construction industry. Altitude is a leading operation that connects consumer needs to an organization's commercial objectives in ways that create breakthrough products.
- Bob Welsh, Global Director of Industrial Design for DEWALT Industrial Tools & Equipment
No one had considered developing a radio specifically for use on job sites, where entertainment is an important part of productivity and morale.
Uncovering the Opportunity
Back in the mid-1990s, the tool market was saturated with products. Multiple manufacturers competed to stand out by adding new features onto power tools—new switches, more powerful motors, a light at the end of a power drill. These incremental design changes, however, only went so far in distinguishing companies from one another, leading to short-term changes in market share but little sustained growth. Leading tool manufacturer DeWalt needed a game-changing new product to drive new growth. The company turned to Altitude’s innovation strategy to help find one.
Our team spent time on location at numerous job sites, banging nails and closely querying workers and foremen on what they felt was important to their routine. The research led us to a surprising discovery into what they needed most: a new radio. At the time, the average contractor was going through three and a half radios a year, watching standard boom boxes quickly fall apart from rough treatment, dust, and other job hazards. No one had considered designing a product specifically for use on job sites, where entertainment is an important part of productivity and morale.
When we brought back a prototype of a new, durable radio built into a tough plywood box, contractors asked to buy it on the spot. Knowing we were onto something, we designed a radio that looked and acted tough, with a roll cage on the exterior to protect it from harm; a durable, rubberized antenna; oversized knobs for use by gloved hands in any weather; and a non-LCD control panel visible in any light. We kept it simple, leaving out cassette or CD player and even a remote control in favor of a simple AM/FM radio workers could “set and forget” while they worked.
A key insight came when contractors told us they were reluctant to sacrifice an electrical outlet on the job site to a radio. Often those outlets were used to charge batteries for portable power tools, which had been recently introduced into the market. To make the most out of the product, we added a charging station onto the radio that fit all DeWalt batteries and turned it into a dual-purpose tool. In essence, consumers could buy the charger and feel like they were getting a radio for free.
The DeWalt Worksite Radio sold 1.5 million units in the first year, making it the best product launch in DeWalt’s history and far surpassing industry standards, where selling 50,000 units is considered exceptional. The DeWalt Radio/Charger became an icon, resulting in DeWalt expanding its definition of what it means to provide “a tool for every job.” Altitude went on to help the company expand into other new markets, including communications, security, project planning, documentation, and power management.
A decade after its introduction, the radio design remained unchanged and continued to sell without any price erosion. In fact, consumers outside the construction industry began buying it to use for the beach, picnics, and yard work. While there have been plenty of imitators, strong intellectual property restraints have kept the competition at bay for years, distinguishing the DeWalt Radio/Charger as a unique product in a crowded industry.