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Ryobi: "World's Largest 18-Volt System" (A Rant)


fm2176

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These forums, and similar sites dedicated to power tools and those who use them, are filled with people who dedicate themselves to certain brands.  Many of us can objectively say that certain brands make certain tools better than others, but the dislike for various brands' marketing, their current and past mistakes, and sometimes just their overall business practices is evidenced by numerous threads and post about why Brand X is inferior to Brand Y.  Usually, Ryobi slips under the radar as a "DIY-brand" that is either dismissed outright or is begrudgingly given respect as an inexpensive, yet capable, alternative to the two dominant brands in my area of the US-Milwaukee and DeWalt.  I've owned and used Ryobi tools for quite some time now, but a recent release has caused me some concern in how the brand markets and sells some of its more niche tools.

 

Searching "Ryobi Power Tools" results in a Home Depot ad making the claim in the thread title.  With "over 175 cordless tools", Ryobi truly does offer one of the most diverse and innovative tool platforms out there.  Usually marketed as the bottom tier of the Ryobi/Ridgid/Milwaukee triad, the brand nonetheless sells not only drivers and saws, but also a plethora of more specialized tools such as a cordless caulking gun, hybrid floor dryer, and even a pool vacuum.  Over time I've noticed something, though: no matter how innovative a product or how well they work, Ryobi seems to have a large number of limited release tools that disappear within a year or two of being introduced.  

 

Last month, I read ToolGuyd's post about the new PCF02 cordless fan, and at $20 each I anticipated buying two for personal use.  Being unavailable online I knew that a little patience would have me finding these in store.  Since then, I've checked the website regularly and visited a few stores, only to find them listed as being available at two Richmond, VA area stores (which now show limited stock).  Given the population density of where I live and work in Northern VA I felt sure that some stores would receive these, but for the past 2-3 weeks it's been only those two medium-sized stores located about 10 miles from each other, ignoring not only the other four greater Richmond-area stores, but the multitude of Home Depots in the suburbs of Washington, DC.

 

My Ryobi "collection" has a few similar products that seem to have been dropped after only a brief period.  For example, the Devour sweeper has been a mainstay in my household for over three years, yet I can't find any parts for it on the Ryobi parts website (one of the locking knobs has been missing for a couple of years).  The Score speaker system seemed overpriced initially, but after picking up a set on clearance it's become my go-to audio system for entertaining guests.  

 

If/when I find the clamp fan(s) I'll likely forget all about my current concerns (okay, I won't really).  Ryobi has done something no other tool brand has, sticking with the same battery format for 25 years and ensuring that most of their One+ tools work regardless of the age of the tool or the battery chemistry.  I can't grab my old UniVolt drill in the garage, slap a modern DeWalt 12v Ma battery in it, and go to work, but I can grab my father-in-law's old blue Ryobi drill, put any of my One+ batteries in it, and get the job done.  Similarly, if I had any of the old Ni-Cad batteries, I could put one in my newest One+ tool, albeit with limited performance and runtime.  

 

Ryobi has an established and loyal customer base, and continues to attract those who are already heavily invested in other platforms.  In the end, though, if having the "largest 18-volt tool system" relies on decade old models and limited availability items like the PCF02, does the claim truly stand?  With few exceptions such as upgraded models and such, I can still go out and buy just about any of the DeWalt or Milwaukee tools I currently own.  I could very possibly replace them at the Home Depot and Lowe's stores a mile or two down the road.  If my Devour stops ingesting, or my Score speakers play their final note, however, I'm unlikely to find replacements at a reasonable price even online.

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I often feel TTI uses Ryobi as the platform to test out new/novel products, and if something “takes” then they’ll evaluate whether to do the same with their more expensive platforms.

 

The rumor mill seems to be that this little fan is a temporary thing only, but I tell staff in my area about it (they have yet to see them themselves) and they think it’s just not officially released until Ryobi days or something else later this month officially begins. So some people have basically been getting ahold of them in advance.

 

The customer response I think suggests Ryobi really hit it out of the park coming out with this product. Ryobi won’t discontinue it out of nowhere. It’s the introductory price of $20 that probably won’t last.

 

They also have little LED area lamps for $50 a pair. The staff at my local HD found them but not the fans, but I couldn’t resist getting those anyway.

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It does seem like TTI utilizes Ryobi as such, but some things seem to work backwards.  For example, the Ryobi crown stapler recently popped up in local stores and seems similar to the M12 stapler I've owned for a couple of years (not sure when the Ryobi was released, though).  Also, the Ryobi AirStrike nailers seem to get a lot of good reviews (I own the brad and pin nailers), while the earlier M18 Fuel nailers were disappointing (it might have only been one or two models, but I recall a lot of grief expressed by those who suddenly realized that Milwaukee isn't infallible).

 

Lighting is one of the few things I don't own in green.  I have plenty of Milwaukee lights and a few DeWalt and Ridgid.  Also, the "niche" items I've gotten such as the Score system and Devour sweeper were picked up on clearance, so I can't complain too much.  

 

Oh, and as an aside, I picked up the last five of the fans at the store that's fifty miles from me.  I wanted two and was considering the Ryobi or Ridgid cordless caulking gun.  Instead, I passed on those ($60 and $80 respectively) and grabbed the five fans.  One is going to a friend, and the other four will be for the family's use.

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Milwaukee’s integration into TTI has been a slow progression. They were definitely allowed to be their own thing for a while, but the last few years in particular they have been more and more integrated into the shared development model. Which I’m hazarding to guess is how their new nailers are being so well received...they’ve basically just been allowed to take Ryobi’s surprisingly good nailers and throw in premium parts. Similar with their palm router...Ryobi has had that for quite a few years and Milwaukee just got to build theirs off of it instead of doing a complete new design. These developments also seem to be bringing Ryobi more upscale, which I’m not going to complain about.

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I couldn't agree more.  I am a huge fan of Ryobi and it has it's place.  I do see some things Milwaukee releases and then Ryobi is right behind it.  I also see Ryobi come out with certain tools and them Milwaukee is quick to release a similar product.  

 

In regards to having the most or a large amount of tools to market, this is one thing I have never understood with Ryobi, Milwaukee and Makita.  I would like to know the true number of tools that are alliable for the end user.  I can never get a straight answer.  So if Makita has a bare impact driver and then they have that same impact driver with a battery, do they count that as two SKU's?  Yes, I know it's two SKU's but does that go into their marketing of Makita has over 300 different tools.  Same with Ryobi and Milwaukee, what is truly counted.  

 

I always feel like it's a pain to get Ryobi parts to fix tools.  I am not sure if they look at them as throw away tools or what but it would make sense to have a Ryobi parts website that they run so those of use who want to fix a tool, instead of buying a new one.

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So, I picked up five of the clamping fans last Monday.  One-hundred-mile round trip and, oh yeah, we had a bit of a gas crisis that I found out about a day later.  Looking at the Home Depot site now, there are none available within 100 miles of my location.  

 

Last Sunday I left a comment on the ToolGuyd post, and Stuart speculated that they may be on pallets somewhere waiting for a scheduled release date.  I don't know, maybe the two Richmond-area stores that had them jumped the gun in displaying them.  Maybe they're waiting for Ryobi Days, which would surely increase Ryobi's profits when people choose this $20 fan over a $79 tool to go with the battery starter kit.  

 

@Eric - TIA, there is a parts website.  I had no luck finding parts for my Devour last week, but I was searching using that name.  The model number (P3260) yielded a diagram and parts breakdown, meaning I can finally order that knob along with some replacement brushes.  The site even includes wiring diagrams for some tools, such as the Air Cannon.  Prices seem very reasonable, though shipping for the $1.56 knob is $6.  I looked up a couple of the old blue tool model numbers (P220 and P240) and they have .pdf copies of the parts breakdown and list, but no available parts.  Even so, those could be useful for someone needing a wiring diagram, cross references, or bolt/screw/bearing sizes.

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Yes, I like the manuals and thanks for letting us know about the website.  The manuals are great for us to follow along and fix but just wish they had more parts in order to fix some of the stuff.

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1 hour ago, Eric - TIA said:

Yes, I like the manuals and thanks for letting us know about the website.  The manuals are great for us to follow along and fix but just wish they had more parts in order to fix some of the stuff.

 

The lack of parts availability for some tools seems to indicate that Ryobi expected them to be disposable.  Hopefully they support their newer tools, especially the HP line and other more premium models.  I guess I can understand them not selling a switch for a 15-year-old entry-level tool, but they should support those who make a heavy investment in Ryobi instead of DeWalt or Milwaukee (the latter two seem to support their products for quite some time).

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The shared platform model they seem to be adopting will likely mean they will share a lot of parts, and/or even be able to substitute parts. I almost expect people who really want to be crafty to find they can upgrade these newer Ryobi tools with Milwaukee internals.

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4 hours ago, ToolBane said:

The shared platform model they seem to be adopting will likely mean they will share a lot of parts, and/or even be able to substitute parts. I almost expect people who really want to be crafty to find they can upgrade these newer Ryobi tools with Milwaukee internals.

 

That would be great for crafty tool types.  Creating a "sleeper" tool of sorts, similar to putting a performance 350 in a Citation, or turbocharging a compact car.

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