Many processors use big tanks of water, whether for cleaning or draining parts in a chemical bath or for industrial laundry applications, he said.
"Anywhere you are hooking up pipes to machines, there is the possibility of vibration being an issue. Machines jostle and they can break hard seals. This solves the problem of conforming to different sizes as well as vibration isolation," he said.
A proprietary line, the Flex Flow hoses are difficult to copy, or "knock off," Grayson said. "If it was easy a lot of people would do it," he said.
The line did not take long to develop—the actual engineering took only a few months, essentially "having been done before it was started," Grayson said. But the challenge was in the customer solutions side.
"The key was finding the right mix of end pieces to meet customer demand," he said. "What is the most popular? There are standard thresholds within the industry, whether that is connecting a 3-inch to a 2-inch pipe, or a 1.5-inch to a 3-inch pipe. We listened to our customer base and we are adding as many features as we can and trying to diversify the line, without turning into New Coke."
The Flex Flow line of hoses is made of EPDM rubber—Crushproof works exclusively with synthetic rubbers, whether EPDM, butyl nitrile or neoprene—and the hoses are constructed via cold-feed extrusion.
They are then specified out and cut to their various diameters and sizes, and cured in an autoclave using heat and steam.
"With our seamless construction method, there is nothing to separate, delaminate, loosen or unglue—and that means fewer failure points over time," Grayson said. "There are no leak points in the hose and each end provides a clamped rubber seal that's easy to remove, adjust or inspect if necessary.
"Our system is a drastic improvement over the traditional solvent-welded PVC pipe method. Flex Flow requires no cutting or gluing and machines can be moved or adjusted easily both during and after installation."
A further advantage of the Flex Flow drainage line, Grayson said, is that the hoses are unaffected by UV light, ozone, detergents, bleaches and high temperatures.
"Flex Flow is truly unique," he said. "It is amazingly fast to get a system in, and then on the back end, it is easy to maintain, modify, switch it or move it. Troubleshooting and changing or moving industrial machines can be done easily. This is one of its biggest marketing virtues."
The hose line also reduces warehouse inventory for customers, Grayson said.
"Instead of having to have a bunch of different elbows, connectors and lengths of pipe, you can have one set of items," he said. "I need 20 tubes for 20 machines. No elbows, 45s, 90s, different pipe lengths—all of this helps reduce inventory."
Outside of the laundry and part-washing spaces, Grayson noted that the line has been requested for use in air intakes, which require flexible tubing.
"It's a similar scenario here," he said, where different sizes of pipes need to be connected to a generator.
Like manufacturers large and small, Crushproof has not been immune to supply line difficulties at seaports and distribution hubs caused by the pandemic.
"Thankfully, we do a lot of other stuff," Grayson said of the virtues of remaining diversified. "But anything we need to get imported, lead times are unbelievable. Stuff that took a month is taking six months. It is absolutely crazy—we find ourselves contributing to the death spiral of production, as extended lead times means over-ordering, and this then makes the problems that much worse. You can put a 'me too' on that one for us."
Grayson noted that demand in construction and home improvement never really declined for Crushproof, though automotive aftermarket service has not yet returned to its pre-pandemic levels, a "subtle wear-and-tear issue for aftermarket providers," he said.
And there was a huge spike in demand in medical at the onset of the pandemic, for which Crushproof manufactures bellows and rubber boots for hospital beds. But even that has tapered off.
"It is kind of like the ventilators—everybody was freaking out about their construction, and at the end of the day it was a nice PR release to say you were part of their production. But they never really impacted the market like we thought they would," he said. "It was a big burst up front that kind of went out."
Crushproof Tubing Co. began in 1949, and its ability to adapt to market niches and unforeseen industry volatility continues for the company that first specialized in garage exhaust hoses for the automotive aftermarket.
"We are extremely diverse," Grayson said. "We dabble in every major industry on the planet. We keep our prices low because of the standard of assortment."
Simple Drain for a complex time
In addition to its Flex Flow line, Crushproof Tubing offers its Simple Drain line, a plumbing and drainage system engineered with an antimicrobial additive, Micropel, placed into the mixture when the EPDM is compounded.
"Simple Drain uses antimicrobial rubber, which can be disinfected in ways that a standard pipe cannot be," Grayson told Rubber & Plastics News last year.
Simple Drain can be used in conjunction with any single-basin sinks in houses, industrial settings and hotels, Grayson said.
Because of its antimicrobial nature and ability to be cleaned with a bleach-and-water solution, Simple Drain can ward off the coronavirus or Legionnaires' disease.