Volume 4 | Issue 6 | Year 2001

Picture millions of feet of hoses — industrial-grade, made in various lengths, diameters and thicknesses. That’s about how much in the way of hoses are wound onto the retractable reels produced by Reelcraft Industries, Inc. Apply that same imagery to electrical cords and cables; then envision them stored on Reelcraft reels.

Now picture all of the different businesses that would need reels for hoses, cords and cables; from that, you have an idea of the broad scope of the company’s customer base. Indeed, Reelcraft reels are used by businesses around the world. According to William Martin, marketing manager, “The company’s reels and accessories are used by most, if not all, of the Fortune 500 companies, by the military and in numerous commercial applications.”

Martin lists the following benefits of proper hose and cord handling in terms of creating an improved work environment with better ergonomics:
• Safety: Reels keep hoses and cords off the floor and help prevent tripping over them. He notes that tripping is the most common cause of workplace accidents.
• Efficiency: Hoses and/or cords stored on a reel are quickly available for use, are easily put away and can be mounted on the ceiling, the wall or the floor, or on vehicles.
• Economy: Proper use and storage increase hose life. Martin comments that replacing hoses can be expensive in terms of downtime, cost of materials and labor charges.

In addition to these benefits, Reelcraft pledges to provide the highest quality, competitive pricing and on-time delivery. The company guarantees the shipping of standard reels in five days or less. To achieve these goals, the company has an integrated system with in-house facilities that include a powder-coat painting operating, a bar-coding system, computer-controlled machinery, robotic welding, computer-aided design and computer modeling. The products’ components made outside the shop are manufactured using the company’s designs and tooling, confirming Reelcraft’s commitment to quality. The company has been ISO 9001-certified since 1996.

A Winding History
Reelcraft came into being in 1971, when Stan Penn and Richard Schaller purchased the Hose Reel Division of Dresser Industries. This division’s beginnings go back more than 50 years, to Equipment Corporation, a hose reel maker that supplied original-equipment manufacturers. Several changes in ownership and location occurred over the years, which eventually brought the company to Columbia City, Ind., its current location.

Penn has been Reelcraft’s owner and president since Schaller’s retirement in 1981. The company opened a new manufacturing and office facility in Columbia City in 1985; this complex was expanded twice in the 1990s. Today, the company manufactures more than 2,500 reel models in its 121,000 square feet of production space, Reelcraft employs 160 people in Columbia City. Also, a team of 35 independent sales representative companies serves its customers across the country and around the world. Reels, parts and accessories are available through national and international distributors.

Reelcraft has grown continuously since its inception. Today, the company’s annual sales exceed $15 million. “We are probably one of the top manufacturers in the industry in the world, selling in 82 countries,” Penn says. “We continue to aggressively seek growth in all markets.”

Martin says that about 50 percent of Reelcraft’s sales come from industrial customers, and 20 percent come from automotive dealerships and garages. The remaining 30 percent of sales are from diverse markets such as aircraft, boats, construction, agriculture, farming, garden and lawn equipment, consumer services and logging. He identifies the company’s top seller as a retractable air hose used for industrial applications. Other uses take in an array of substances, including water, oil, grease, gases, fuel, lubricants, chemicals and fertilizers.

Seeds for Global Growth
“Our growth is going to come from constantly developing new products for new functions,” Penn says. “We also see growth opportunities in the international market from a lot of ideas we have developed in manufacturing and product strategies. There are definitely more growth opportunities internationally because of developing markets and the heightened awareness of safety and ergonomics, and we make it easy to handle cables and hoses. We will be aggressive.”

Several Reelcraft locations serve the company’s international markets. Reelcraft International, Inc., based in The Netherlands, distributes throughout Europe; Reelcraft Industries, Inc./Asia Pacific Division, located in the Philippines, covers the Asia and Pacific Rim markets; Reelcraft Industries, Inc./Latin American is headquartered in Fort Wayne, Ind. A separate but related company, Nordic Systems, Inc., in Ontario, was acquired in 1993. This operation makes hose reels and certain custom products.

At the core of a Reelcraft product is the coil-type spring. Martin explains, “The Reelcraft spring — call it the drive spring — is made of premium material. It goes through quality checks during manufacturing and is tested after manufacturing.” In the manufacturing process, the tempered steel is slit with the width oversized, and each edge is shaved by using precision carbide tools to avoid fractures or imperfections. The resulting smooth surface ensures reliability and long life.

Additional hose reel features and accessories include baked-on powder-coat paint that resists abrasion and corrosion, full-flow shaft and ball-bearing swivel, heavy-duty brackets, dual main bearings on larger models, multiposition guide arms (for wall, floor, ceiling, pit, or truck mounting), permanent lubrication, a posi-latch that maintains the hose’s desired length, adjustable hose bumpers, nylon guide rollers and a declutching spring arbor drive that eliminates the possibility of spring damage due to reverse winding of the reel spool.

Reelcraft hose reel designs also include dual hydraulic, hand-crank and motor-driven models. Stainless steel reels in spring and hand-crank versions are also available. Electric cord reels, welding cable reels, dual-hose reels for oxygen/acetylene and fuel applications, low-tension ergomatic reels, spring-driven Polycraft™ reels, tool balancers and static discharge grounding reels round out the product line.

Martin comments that Reelcraft will achieve future growth both by serving broader markets and developing products for niche markets. The retractable hose that was developed for golf-course irrigation is an example of the latter. “This is a retractable hose that taps into the irrigation system for a process called syringing,” he say. “In syringing, a thin layer of water is applied to the grass blades in hot weather. Usually, the maintenance crew has to drag around the hose, and that’s labor-intensive and time-consuming. Now, an enclosure is built with a retractable hose inside it. The ground crew pulls up a 6-inch cover and the hose is there, stored underground on a reel. When the hose is pulled out, it’s fully pressurized and ready to go.”

Approximately 100 retractable golf-course units have been installed since it was introduced last year. When it comes to successfully pairing practicality with innovation, this Reelcraft reel is par for the course.

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