Connectra Fusion Technologies LLC competes as a scrappy underdog in selling equipment to fuse polyethylene pipe.
In December, for example, Connectra delivered 12 lightweight hand-pump machines to a New York subsidiary of Consolidated Edison Inc. for fusing PE in restrictive spaces.
``It was a total surprise that a gas utility wanted a hand-pump unit,'' Ron Underwood, Connectra president, said May 6 during the San Diego conference of the Plastic Pipe Institute Inc.
At less than $10,000 each, Connectra's updated hand-pump with a centerline mechanism costs about 20 percent less than a hydraulic machine, and in confined areas can effectively fuse PE pipe with diameters of 2 inches to 8 inches.
``We are now selling into the sewer lateral market in municipalities,'' he said. Major cities are replacing lateral sanitary sewer pipes.
Connectra of Gainesville, Texas, targets niches in a PE fusion equipment market that McElroy Manufacturing Inc. of Tulsa, Okla., dominates.
McElroy has ``taken the product line upscale, and the industry has bought into the move,'' Underwood said.
McElroy has another viewpoint. ``We are giving customers more options, from plain-Jane [models] on wheels to some on tracks with their own generator,'' Jim Craig, McElroy national sales manager, said by telephone. ``We try to show the advantages of more expensive options.''
Underwood said he aims to keep Connectra's equipment simple, intuitive to use, cost-effective to maintain and focused on functions necessary to deliver heat-fused pipe.
Connectra employs 37, occupies 35,000 square feet and has operated as a joint venture of T.D. Williamson Inc. of Tulsa and Christie Capital Inc. of Dallas since a 2001 merger of their PE fusion product businesses.