Innovations are all around you

I've been thinking a lot about innovation lately. It started at the AAPEX/SEMA shows in Las Vegas, where many of the tool manufacturers debut their latest tools.

The first day of AAPEX opened with our own 2010 PTEN Innovation Awards presentation. (Coverage of the event is on PTEN's Facebook page. You can also take a look at our Online Buyer's Guide,, for a list of the winners and nominees.)

But the idea of innovation really hit home with me after I returned from the shows. Late Sunday afternoon, an hour before the Packers played Dallas on Sunday Night Football, my wife returned from errands with a going-flat tire.

As I sprawled out on the cold Wisconsin blacktop on a dark November evening using the Buick Roadmaster's factory tire jack/handle, I realized the only decent equipment I had was the magnetized work light that I was able to place and angle right into the work area. I really was wishing for a nice floor jack and cordless impact wrench.

I had a "duh" moment as it really hit home that innovation applies to every area of the shop. There's something that can be improved in just about every task. I realized that I generally think of innovation as it applies to just specialty tools, but that's just not correct.

Hopefully, you already think about innovation and how it can improve different areas of your shop for more efficiency. But if you're guilty of the same misconceptions as I, consider looking around a bit more on your distributor's truck. Maybe some of your tools have evolved since you last bought that work light, power tool or even screwdriver.

Even hand cleaners are innovating, I pondered, as I scrubbed my hands during the pre-game and they came away smelling like cherry instead of kerosene.