A Wrench Fends Off Injury, Feeds the Economy

Kenosha-based toolmaker Snap-on Inc. has introduced a new product created by UW-Milwaukee Engineers – an industrial wrench designed to reduce shoulder, hand and back injuries.

Nearly 30 percent of worker injuries in the gas utility industry come from changing meters. Many of these are so severe they require surgical treatment.

“Based on our investigations and input from our gas industry partners, we determined that something must be done to prevent these devastating and costly injuries,” said Industrial Engineering Professor Naira Campbell-Kyureghyan. “Our innovations and research-based training continues to make an impact on many people, including the most important impact of all – saving lives.”

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Naira Campbell-Kyureghyan displays the specialty wrench created by her research team in collaboration with Snap-On Industrial. (UWM Photo/Derek Rickert)

Campbell-Kyureghyan along with Associate Professor, Materials Science and Engineering, Benjamin Church, and alumnus Patrick Dix made and tested the wrench with the input from UWM’s Consortium for Advanced Research in Gas Industries (CARGI), an organization of member companies in the gas industry. CARGI, formed by Campbell-Kyureghyan in 2010, is dedicated to improving safety and productivity for its private-sector and utility members.

“Public-private research partnerships such as this are not only vitally important to our regional and state economies, they are transformational,” said Mark Mone, UWM chancellor. “Together, Snap-on Inc. and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are positively impacting thousands of lives.”

“The future of work in critical industries like public utilities depends upon innovation that brings more safety and greater productivity to the worksite,” said Andy Ginger, president of Snap-on Industrial. “Snap-on is exceptionally proud to introduce this completely new gas meter service solution in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.”

Gas meter technicians currently use adjustable pipe wrenches, which can slip when significant force is applied, causing injuries that often require surgery. The new tool has a longer handle, designed to work with several interchangeable heads, so that technicians don’t have to carry the added weight of multiple specialty wrenches in their tool bags.

Recent UWM alums Patrick Loesehk and Alexa Hernandez are among the students who worked on research projects in Naira Campbell-Kyureghyan's lab. (UWM Photo/Derek Rickert)

Recent UWM alums Patrick Loesehk and Alexa Hernandez are among the students who worked on research projects in Naira Campbell-Kyureghyan’s lab. (UWM Photo/Derek Rickert)

Snap-on entered a license agreement with the UWM Research Foundation in October 2013 to commercialize the gas-meter wrench.

This collaboration represents a triple-win. A local business has a new product to bring to market. Utility workers have a tool that prevents on-the-job injuries. Students are engaged in research with real-world application, making them industry-ready.

Campbell-Kyureghyan’s lab donates its proceeds from tool sales to CARGI scholarships at UWM to support student work and internships.