Klein Tools is an American company based in Lincolnshire, Illinois that manufactures hand tools. The company is known for its popularity with workers in the electrical and telecommunications industries. Lineman's pliers are often called "Kleins," an example of a genericized trademark.
Klein's line-up contains more than 3,800 different tools, including 165 different types of pliers, in addition to screwdrivers, nut drivers, wire pulling and stripping tools, crimping tools, scissors, snips and shears, cable and bolt cutters, conduit benders, personal protective equipment, and tool bags. Klein produces a high-end line of tools under its Journeyman label.
Klein Tools was founded in 1857 in Chicago, Illinois by German immigrant Mathias Klein. The first tool Klein made was a pair of side-cutting pliers for a telegraph lineman. The company grew as the telegraph and eventually telephone and electrical industries grew after the Civil War by adding 100 types of pliers in the 1910s. From the 1960s-1980s, the company expanded their product line to include leather and canvas products, occupational safety equipment, hex key wrenches, screwdrivers, nut drivers, as well as electrical terminals and connectors. Along the way, Klein acquired the R.H. Buhrke Company of Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1968 and the Vaco Products Company of Jonesville, Michigan in 1986. Also in the mid 1980s, the company started manufacturing adjustable wrenches in the US, which they had previously been purchasing from a Japanese supplier.
Klein Tools built a drop forging plant in Moran, Kansas and distribution center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa before the 1990s. In 2006, Klein Tools moved its corporate headquarters to Lincolnshire, IL. Also that year, the company added an affiliate, Klein Connection, to help ensure a wider distribution of Klein products. Klein Connection is an e-commerce website. In 2011, the company opened their new advanced manufacturing facility in Mansfield, Texas. In 2014, they opened their new heat-treating facility and announced plans to expand on their 100 acres in Mansfield. The company is still owned and managed by members of the Klein family.
Klein Tools currently has offices and facilities in Fort Smith, AR; Lincolnshire, IL; Cedar Rapids, IA; Bolivar, NY; Mansfield, TX; and Turn-Key Forging & Design, Inc. operations in Elk Grove Village, IL.
Non-U.S. Manufacturing and U.S. Plant Closings
Not all products produced by Klein Tools are manufactured in the United States. Some tools (unspecified by the company) are manufactured in Mexico, Taiwan, and China. Klein Tools provides little to no information on their website regarding their foreign manufacturing operations; opting instead to feature their "American" commitments, devoting three sentences about their Mexico operations at the very bottom of the webpage in footnote fashion.
While Klein Tools proudly highlights their "expansion" of U.S. manufacturing, they have neglected to mention a number of plant closings and automation implementations that cost jobs as a result of transferring operations to Texas, where Klein Tools received a $2.8 million tax subsidy from Texas taxpayers. Company President Thomas Klein described their new manufacturing facility in Mansfield, Texas (2011) as part of a broader commitment "to expand our manufacturing capabilities in the USA." This expansion, however, came at significant cost to their other U.S. manufacturing communities, with Klein Tools closing three of its plants in Illinois (Skokie and Roselle) and Michigan (Rockford). At the same time, Senior vice president of manufacturing, Chris Hargan, highlighted the company's advancements in robotic automation and the efficiencies of employing fewer U.S. workers: "'In 1998 we had nearly 900 people producing these products,' Hargan added. 'Today we produce 25 percent more product with approximately one-half of the people we had then.'"
Klein Tools got involved in motorsports in 1994 to gain visibility with auto racing fans. Drivers of Klein-backed cars included Jacques Villeneuve, who won the Indianapolis 500 and the CART championship in 1995; and Dan Weldon (co-major sponsor with Jim Beam), who won the Indianapolis 500 in 2005.
In 2001, Klein Tools started sponsoring aerobatics pilot Michael Mancuso. He flew the Klein Tools Extra 300L during air shows and at IndyCar events as the official air show of the Indy Racing League.
Three Klein screwdrivers, with their distinctive handles.
A set of Klein Journeyman pliers.
A double open-ended wrench.
A modular plug crimper.
- Electrical Contractor Magazine (2006-08). "Klein Tools Moves Corporate Headquarters". Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation (2000-05-01). "Klein Tools: A Tradition of Quality and Success". Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- Cage, Chuck (2007-03-16). "Reader Find: Klein's "Beverage Tool"". Toolmonger. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- Brewer, Jay (2008-05-20). "Klein Tools Turns 150!". Tool Snob. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- Contracting Business (2007-04-01). "Klein Tools Founder Inducted into Lineman's Museum, Hall". Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- Alloy Artifacts. "Various Hand Tool Makers". Retrieved 2010-01-25.
- Klein Connection. "About Us". Retrieved 2010-01-12.
- Klein Tools (2001-08). "Klein Tools Introduces New Journeyman™ Line of Premium Pliers for Professionals". Retrieved 2010-01-12.
- Murphy, H. Lee (1996-07-08). "Pliers Poker". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved 2014-03-12.
- F&F Industrial Equipment Corp. "Manufacturer Spotlight: Klein Tools". Retrieved 2014-04-04.
- Wack, Kevin (2008). Forging Endurance: The Klein Tools Story. Old Saybrook, Connecticut: Greenwich Publishing. p. 91. ISBN 0-944641-69-5. Retrieved 2014-04-04.
- CableOrganizer.com. "The History of Klein Tools". Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- ContractorSupplyMagazine.com. "Inside Klein Tools' Texas Manufacturing HQ". Retrieved 2014-04-17.
- Klein Tools. "About Klein". Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- Fox 17 News. "Klein Tools: Rockford Michigan Facility To Move In 2015". Retrieved 2014-03-13.
- kleintools.com. "American Manufacturing". Retrieved 2017-02-15.
- garagejournal.com. "Klein Tools - Taiwan". Retrieved 2017-02-15.
- electriciantalk.com. "Klein Tools Made In China?". Retrieved 2017-02-15.
- amazon.com. "Made in Taiwan!!!!". Retrieved 2017-02-15.
- chicago.cbslocal.com. "Klein Tools To Close Plants In Skokie, Roselle". Retrieved 2017-02-15.
- contractorsupplymagazine.com. "Inside Klein Tools' Texas Manufacturing HQ". Retrieved 2017-02-15.
- fox17online.com. "Klein Tools: Rockford Michigan Facility To Move In 2015". Retrieved 2017-02-15.
- The Auto Channel. "KLEIN TOOLS SIGNS MULTI-YEAR SPONSORSHIP DEAL WITH ANDRETTI GREEN". Retrieved 2014-04-17.
- Crash.net. "Air Show to enhance pre-race build-up". Retrieved 2014-03-17.