The hole saw is a ubiquitously necessary tool. You would be hard-pressed to find an electrician who does not have at least one in his or her toolbox, or an electrical contractor without a hole saw kit or two back at the shop. Without a doubt, it is the go-to tool for a variety of applications, from making holes in junction boxes to cutting through gypsum board, sheet metal and plastic.

Without a hole saw on hand, said Michael Weber, principal of Gaston Electrical Co. Inc. in Norwood, Mass., the next likely alternatives would be a hydraulic punch or a keyhole saw—even a small hammer in a pinch—but he added that those would be time-consuming options. In addition, with the exception of the hydraulic punch, those other tools don’t deliver as neat a hole, which is a must if fireproofing is going to come into play.

While their handiness in the field is widely acknowledged, these little guys can also affect the bottom line through issues around productivity and safety, which, in turn, can either save or cost money. Luckily, the industry has responded to make life a little easier on the job and provide more bang for your buck.

What’s important to users, said Jared Schmidt of Bosch North America, encompasses more than just making a hole. Speed, durability and quality are key as well, and, he said, “Today’s hole saws are lasting longer and performing better and with more accuracy than they ever have.”

Of course, business owners and managers know that time is money. The more productive technicians are, the more money in the bank, so it’s critical that a tool as utilized as the hole saw be as efficient as possible.

“We're always trying to improve what we do. If that means a new model of tool, we're going to use it," Weber said.

One way some models of hole saws can pose a challenge to job site productivity, Weber said, is when workers have to stop what they’re doing to deal with a stubborn plug. With that in mind, more tool manufacturers, like Bosch and Milwaukee Tool, have adopted slotted-cup designs to make popping out that piece of wood easier, faster and much less frustrating.

Milwaukee’s Hole Dozer saw with Plug Jack has open-access slots at both the lower and upper end of the cup that allow operators to use a screwdriver or similar tool to remove whatever material is jamming up the works. Similarly, Bosch’s Daredevil hole saws also come with a specially designed cup for easy plug removal.

Optimization of tooth patterns and materials is something else that benefits end users, Schmidt said, and this has led Bosch and other manufacturers to focus on strengthening those features. Bosch’s bi-metal saws, Schmidt said, have been upgraded to an 8-percent cobalt alloy, and the Daredevil line has added carbide, which Schmidt said is a future trend for the category.

Of course, human error comes into play when trying to achieve maximum productivity, and Weber said users have to ensure they’re using a drill with the right amount of torque and the right saw for the job at hand.

One particularly high-tech hole saw advancement from Milwaukee is the compatibility of certain models with the company’s One-Key system. Users can select the size of the hole saw and the material to be cut. Then, One-Key pre-selects speed and torque, both of which are adjustable. The best part? All of it can be programmed with a smartphone.

“We found, if you’re able to slow the hole saw down, you’re going to generate a huge increase in the number of cuts," said Ryan Rudzinski, Product Manager at Milwaukee Tool. "By cutting at a lower speed, it allows a more consistent cut every time, and you won’t have the drop-off in performance that you would normally have at a higher RPM.”

In addition, by providing a more efficient process with One-Key, those new to the trade or tool won’t have the same learning curve around speed and torque.

“It takes the guesswork out of it,” he said.

Workplace injuries, however, can take a bite out of profits and productivity through increased medical costs, heftier workers’ compensation premiums and lost time. Weber said Gaston workers are trained on how to safely use all company tools and equipment, and the same goes for hole saws.

Debris left inside the cup, as well as a chipped or worn saw, can snag and cause the drill to freeze or bind up.

“If you’re using heavy torque, you could foresee a wrist or hand injury,” Weber said. Ergonomically, he added, the saw itself is light and shouldn’t pose a risk for repressive stress injuries, but the drill is another matter, depending on the weight.

One of the keys to a safer hole saw, Rudzinski said, lies in newer saw designs and coatings, which result in smoother cutting action and less chance of material and debris being left to interfere with the hole saw's function. What isn’t new, Weber said, is the responsibility to maintain the equipment and inspect it before every use.

Rudzinski said current and future advances in hole saws will be driven by user needs and demands, as well as the new materials they will be expected to cut, leaving plenty of room for innovation.