How Greenlee’s REEL-X Makes Fishing Wire and Cable Easier
March 11, 2020
By Blake Marchand
With their new REEL-X fish tape line, Greenlee aimed to alleviate the aggravation and wasted energy associated with jamming and binding fish tapes when fishing wire and cable. Fish tape is a tool that often gets overlooked when it comes to new product designs. It’s a fairly obvious configuration but one that is not without its shortcomings. Which is why Greenlee wanted to solve some of the common issues that come with manual pulling and fishing.
“REEL-X was designed to make using a fish tape easier,” said Adele Hendrix, Product Manager for Greenlee. “After talking with customers, we learned that making it easier for them meant addressing problems with current fish tape designs. The top issue is the tape would bind or jam during use which would impact productivity and may damage the fish tape.”
Hendrix explained that the development of their REEL-X fish tape began as an ergonomics project. In consultation with electricians, they discovered too much energy was being wasted unjamming the fish tape before they even got started. They also identified electricians were experiencing wrist and shoulder strain while fishing, as well as jamming and binding during use taking time away from the job.
“A fish tape is something professionals use every day as part on the job, and it’s been around so long you don’t really think about it,” she said. “It’s kind of akin to a hammer or measuring tape.”
“A lot of people just accept the way it functions.”
Unlike most fish tapes on the market, REEL-X doesn’t feature a handle, which is in part how they addressed avoiding muscle strain. “By holding it under your arm, which was the original intent, you are keeping the weight of the tape closer to your central mass, which eliminates a lot of the discomfort.”
They wanted to design a product that was easier to use, so their customers could focus their energy on doing the job, rather than fighting with their tools.
“What we did to address that was design REEL-X so it requires less force to pull the fish tape from the case than it does with a traditional fish tape,” explained Hendrix, adding that, “The fish tape is contained in a free-spinning interior reel which reduces the friction on the tape, itself. The way the reel sits inside the case ensures the tape doesn’t bind during use, because there’s no hub for it to bind around.”
“So, it’s not even possible to experience the same binding and jamming that plagues the traditional fish tape design,” she noted.
As Hendrix mentioned, they intended REEL-X to be held under the arm or on the ground under your knee. But while visiting job sites she observed that electricians were holding it between their knees and using two hands to pull the tape. This, along with the free spinning interior reel, makes for even faster fishing by making it possible to pull the tape from the case with both hands. Hendrix noted they found REEL-X customers were able to fish up to 2-times faster.
The project was initiated by one of Greenlee’s Human Factors Designer, Janine Mazur. “She was looking at staple products that electricians use, from her perspective. And the fish tape really stood out as one that could stand some improvement.”
“Her focus for the project was improving our tools so workers can save energy for the actual job.”
They didn’t necessarily intend on making fishing quicker. But they observed that customers were fishing much faster because of the free-spinning reel that eliminates binding and the case design that encourages you to hold the fish tape closer to your body, reducing fatigue and strain.
Hendrix’s role with Greenlee is managing product lifecycles for their fishing and pulling product lines. An important part of her position is bringing customer comments and concerns to their product development teams, which includes identifying opportunities for the development of new products. “The easiest way to put it is that I get to be the voice of the customer,” she said.
Adele joined Greenlee in 2016 as a Marketing Specialist, a year later she joined the Product Management team and is currently a Product Manager. As part of her role, Adele leads product development projects and coordinates product launches to the market. She also conducts competitive and sales analysis, as well as market research for new and existing products.
Go HERE for more information on REEL-X