STRONGSVILLE, Ohio—Parker Hannifin Corp. has taken a line of hose it received in a recent acquisition, improved the product and its manufacturing process, and now is looking for a select group of distributors to handle the line.
Parker got the line as part of its 2008 purchase of Titan Industries, which in turn had gotten the MidFlex brand of composite hose and assemblies in a 2006 deal with MidsCo Inc. of Houston. The composite line is used in the chemical and petroleum markets, particularly in service dock applications where a lighter, more flexible option than the rubber hoses in the sector is needed.
Not long after buying Titan, Parker began to look for ways to put its own mark on the product, according to Brent Lilly, business development manager for Parker's Strongsville-based Industrial Hose Products Division.
The first step was to bring the manufacturing of the hose line up to date. The hose was being made more like an old-fashioned hand-built hose, with the innerliner spiraled onto a mandrel. The hose builders would place anywhere from 20 to 30 layers of the innerliner onto the mandrel, with the key being to apply it at the correct tension and speed.
“They're like craftsmen,” Lilly said of the hose builders. “They know what's a good feel to it, and over the years they get experience in doing it properly. But at the end of the day it's still not a consistent product.”
So Parker wanted to develop and perfect a state-of-the-art manufacturing process for the composite line. Within about a year, he said, Parker had designed a new manufacturing cell at its McCook, Neb., hose factory and relocated the production there in October 2009 from its previous home in Spring, Texas.
Concurrent to the change in manufacturing, Parker also was working on improving the product itself. Previously, the hoses were available with inner diameters of 1 to 10 inches, with all utilizing an epoxy seal, which Lilly said could take a long time to set.
Other competitors, however, offered a “dry seal” in the 1- to 4-inch sizes, where the hoses were bought in bulk and coupled using a rubber seal to make the assembly. Parker recognized it needed such an offering, but didn't want to just copy what was already on the market.
“We wanted to develop and implement a stem design incorporating some of the features of the technology Parker has learned over the years in our hydraulic business,” said Lilly, who came to Parker with the Titan acquisition and had helped put in place Titan's dock hose inspection program.
During the next few weeks, Parker will have completed the dry-seal offerings in six sizes in the 1- to 4-inch range and will be testing them in its laboratories, he said.
Seeking dedicated distributors
When it rolls out the new products, Lilly said Parker is seeking to have dedicated distributors who will be Parker factory-certified assembly fabricators that will take over the majority of the firm's 1- to 4-inch composite hose business.
Parker, though, will be very selective in the distributors that can participate. First, the hose maker recognizes the NAHAD Hose Assembly Guidelines as the defining method for fabricating an assembly with these products, he said. Secondly, as part of its Parker Circle of Safety Program, Parker will audit the distributors to make sure all proper procedures are followed.
“It's similar to our hydraulic system in that you can't mix and match hose and rubber seals and other components,” the business development manager said. “It has the same liability potential as a hydraulic hose does during a failure because it usually contains petroleum or a chemical product. If you have a leak, failure or a spill, you have liability issues.”
Parker wants to put in a turnkey system where prospective distributor candidates must either have all the needed equipment on the manufacturer's checklist or be willing to acquire it, according to Lilly. The distributor must then put together a business plan to define key industries and develop sales strategies.
“Success is going to be dependent on how well we work with and partner with customers in the marketplace,” Lilly said.
The company hopes for above-average growth for the line. “We look for it to stay ahead of the normal product growth for quite awhile,” he said, “because while the products have been around some time, we don't see where they've had the marketing support and plans that Parker can put behind it and its channel partners in the marketplace.”