A specialist hose and tube manufacturer is saving customers time and money. HELEN COMPSON learns more.

Colex International is a small company that makes a big impact on the users of its niche services.

For rather than try to compete with cheaper eastern imports of mass produced hose and tube, this Market Harborough based company has chosen to specialise – to the extent that 80% of its products are bespoke, manufactured to the client’s specific requirements.

Colex was established in 1992 to make the flexible thermoplastic hose and tube so often needed in industry. FT Pipeline Systems Ltd is its sole distributor in the UK.

Martyn Fisher, director of sales at Colex International, said: “We now work with major distributors such as FT Pipelines Systems who take the minimum order quantities, who stock the product in long lengths. FT Pipeline Systems then cut and supply the customers exact requirements and together we offer a joint technical back-up package for the product.”

But thanks to the fact Colex has resisted the draw of high-speed production, it can also produce much smaller batches to niche specifications.

“I joined the company 13 years ago and one of my key objectives has been to take Colex from being a manufacturer of stock product to becoming a specialist, bespoke manufacturer,” he said.

“We have used the strength of our relationship with our raw material suppliers and our understanding of the specialist grades they can give us to become much more focused in what we do.

“We have also looked at the additives market too, not just colourants – which we use to make the red, blue, yellow or green our customers want – but also things such as anti-fouling additives for deep sea applications and the Biomaster antimicrobial protection that prevents biofilm forming.

“Because we have retained a standard speed of production, our minimum order quantity is quite low, which means customers can take advantage of those choices and stock a broader range of hose and tube.”

Colex manufactures two ranges that are of particular interest to the water industry – Protectaflex Dual Containment Hose and then PF-Detect, which has the tremendous added benefit of a built in leak detection system.

Martyn said: “Rather than just designing a hose and trying to create a market for it, I get involved with the water companies directly and find out what they need.

“The idea for PF-Detect came out of a Severn Trent Chemical Dousing Panel meeting, where there were 12 or 15 of us around a table. I came away with this weird and wonderful idea I ran past our chief executive, we developed the product and Severn Trent is now using it at many of their sites.”

The savings made can have a direct impact on their customers’ bottom line.

A biodiesel company that was having to replace its hosing every three or four months, for example, approached Colex for help. After studying the effect of biodiesel on different materials, Colex did indeed find a solution.

“We developed a new hose that is out on long-term testing now,” said Martyn. “The customer has had it in daily use for nine months now and it’s not showing any signs of failure.

“Even if he’d paid twice the price he did, he would still be saving money, just from the fact he’s going to get at least nine months to a year out of the new hose.

“We keep moving ahead of the competition, because we can see what the issues that need tackling are. We listen to what contractors are telling us and, as a result, we understand what they are dealing with on the front line.

“The chain is only as strong as the weakest link, so the way we look at it is ‘let’s improve that link’.”