Equipment

Innovation Drives Steady, Rapid Growth at Husky

Issue 8 and Volume 18.

Chris Mc Loone

Any company aspires to be the best at what it does and to achieve number one status in the markets it serves. Husky® Portable Containment is no different and has enjoyed a very successful eight years in business. The company has experienced steady growth since its inception in 2005. “Last year we sold over 30 percent more folding tanks than the previous year,” says Jay Claeys, owner and president of the company. “This year is already on pace to eclipse last year’s mark.”

The Start

Claeys has been in the portable water tank industry for 22 years, and he founded Husky in December 2004. In January 2005, he began putting the shop together, ordered machines, and found vendors. “And then I started making sales calls,” recalls Claeys. “We sold our first folding frame tank in March 2005, so it really didn’t take long. But, there was a lot of R&D time from January 1 to March 1.”

Claeys says that the first year was a little slow, but in 2006 the company’s folding frame tank really took off, and Husky has gained sales every year since. “Our growth has been steady and rapid, and one of the reasons has been the loyal distributorships we have acquired over the last eight years,” he says. “Our new product innovations have also been a huge part of putting Husky on the map.”

The company’s first facility was located in Skiatook, Oklahoma. Shortly after, Husky moved to Dewey, Oklahoma, and a 12,000-square-foot facility that the company has outgrown. It will soon be moving to a brand new 20,000-square-foot plant in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. “We’re still such a young company,” asserts Claeys. “Even though we’re in our ninth year, I’d call us in our sophomore year. We still have a long way to go to build our brand name. We’re growing every year. That’s how the City of Bartlesville gave us all these incentives. They gave us the land. It’s a grant. And they’re helping us with money. If you’re not growing, you’re dying, and we need to keep growing and growing.”

The most important thing, according to Claeys, about expanding is to get more product out the door with better lead times to allow the company to move to the next level of growth.

Firefighters use Husky's patent-pending Easy Lift Handles to easily remove any standing water in the tank and to fold it during a water shuttle class. The handles are welded onto the floor of folding tank liners
(1) Firefighters use Husky’s patent-pending Easy Lift Handles to
easily remove any standing water in the tank and to fold it during a
water shuttle class. The handles are welded onto the floor of folding
tank liners. (Photos courtesy of Husky Portable Containment.)

Two Divisions

Although folding frame tanks are Husky’s core products, the business is diversified. “We build [folding tanks] every day and ship them every day,” says Claeys. “But, as the first and second years progressed, we developed more and more products. We sell a lot of salvage covers. Then we got into this environmental business and that started really taking off. So even though folding frames are still our core product, we do a lot of other things.”

To that end, the company is divided into two divisions: Firefighting Products and Environmental Safety Products. Its firefighting products include folding frame tanks and portable tank racks, self-supporting tanks, aluminum quick assembly tanks, and decon pools and showers. “We also manufacture salvage covers, hosebed and crosslay covers, staging mats, and RIT tarps. Our floating and low-level strainer sales have been increasing as well,” says Claeys.

The environmental division specializes in primary and secondary containment of hazardous liquids that may affect the environment if not contained properly. These products include spill berms, mini basins, bladder and pillow tanks, containment pools, decon pools and showers, water dikes, and drain covers.

Getting on the Map

Part of the aforementioned R&D that took place during the first few months Husky was in business covered the company’s patent-pending Easy Lift Handles, the company’s earliest invention. “The day I started Husky and before I sold one product, I sat at the drawing board and looked at what was being offered in the water movement industry, mainly folding tanks,” Claeys says. “In January 2005, I came up with the concept of the Easy Lift Handles. One of the things lacking was the ability to pick this liner up and get standing water out and help fold the tank. We tested a few tanks and found where the best location was for the handles and started selling tanks. The Easy Lift Handles became this huge revolutionary feature for our folding frame tanks. I thought it was a good idea, but it helped put Husky on the map.

“I also incorporated into the first tank our quick-release drain, which has been modified over the years and our heavy duty floor.” The “Husky Duty” floor uses 28-ounce acrylic-coated PVC for the floor with a 22-ounce PVC for the sidewalls. “Along with tighter grommet spacing and heavier duty hinges for the frames, I believed this tank was moving a step in the right direction for new innovations in the portable tank industry.”

At a water shuttle class, participants use a Husky folding frame tank in a "poor hydrant" situation.
(2) At a water shuttle class, participants use a Husky folding frame
tank in a “poor hydrant” situation.

Product Innovations

Since the first Husky folding frame tank was sold back in 2005, the company has continued to innovate and introduce new products. One innovation came in 2010, when Husky developed its exclusive EXLON® material. “It is a 22-ounce-per-square-yard material that has the best UV and abrasion qualities of any 22-ounce liner material available for folding frame tanks,” says Claeys. “EXLON is being used widely by the United States Forest Service and municipalities all over the United States.” According to Claeys, it has also become the material of choice for portable tanks in the Middle East, Mexico, and Canada.

Focusing on its core products-folding frame tanks-the company’s latest patent-pending product is its Leading Edge™ tank. The tank is a multicapacity tank that can change sizes with two firefighters in less than 15 seconds. Designed for areas where space is at a premium, the Leading Edge tank has the same dimensions as a standard frame tank but can be collapsed down to an eight-foot-wide tank, which, when set up in front of a pumper, can allow other traffic to get by without driving into a ditch. “The great thing about the Leading Edge tank is it can be used as your standard tank size all year and will fit into your truck’s standard tank rack,” says Claeys. “But when you do need the extra road clearance or just don’t have space for the full size tank, it can be collapsed in less than 15 seconds and used as a narrow or Skinny™ tank.” Husky introduced the Leading Edge and Skinny tanks at the 2013 Fire Department Instructors Conference.

It also introduced a newly designed drain tube that can be connected on the inside or outside of the tank as an option. “Husky’s drain is the first in the portable tank industry to be built to drape over the frame and attach to the liner, guaranteeing no mishaps with the drain tubes,” says Claeys. “The old rope method has never been a good idea.”

Claeys states, “Basically the folding frame tank hadn’t changed much at all from the late 1950s to 2004. Husky has been at the forefront of new innovations for portable tanks for firefighting since our beginning.”

(3) Husky owner, Jay Claeys, discusses the next operation at a water
shuttle class with instructors Bob Noll and Steve Edwards.

Differentiators

Claeys feels what differentiates his company from others is its focus on the end user. “The point is to put the quality product out the first time and all the features you can think of to help the end user,” he says. “Whether it’s a firefighting product or an environmental product, we look at several elements. How safe is this product? How easy is it to use? How durable will this product be? Let’s face it-the end user is who is using the products in the field and ultimately decides if your product is worthy or not. If they don’t like it, can’t figure it out, or think it’s not better than a similar product offered by another manufacturer, then we have lost.”

From day one, the company has offered a money-back guarantee for its firefighting products. “We offer a great guarantee. If you don’t think it is better than what you have been using, then send it back and don’t pay us a cent,” Claeys says. “Every time we put our tanks in front of a distributor or customer, it’s a good result. The end users are the most important for us. If they don’t like the product, then we’re not selling products.”

Claeys adds kudos to Husky’s distributors. “Of course, our distributors are huge for us. They are our outside sales staff. They help promote our products.”

On the Horizon

There is a lot on the horizon for drafting products for the fire service. On the apparatus side, Claeys sees a couple of trends for tanker apparatus. “I think you are going to see more truck development,” he says. “Larry Reber of Firovac is a pioneer in the vacuum tanker business, and I think you will see more departments opt for vacuum tankers.” Additionally, Claeys predicts more use of smaller trucks like brush trucks and homemade pickup- type trucks for drafting.

On the portable tank side, Claeys says the desired sizes of portable tanks have increased. “Fifteen years ago, 1,000- and 1,500-gallon folding frame tanks were the most popular size,” he says. “Now we see the 2,100- to 3,000-gallon sizes being the preferred portable tank size. And, we sell a lot of 3,500-, 4,000-, and 5,000-gallon tanks as well.”

Self-supporting tanks will also play a greater role in the future. “I also believe self-supporting tanks are going to be used more,” says Claeys. He explains that before Husky redesigned self-supporting tanks to create a better “lean angle,” many believed these tanks could only be used on perfectly level ground-which was true even a few years ago. Husky redesigned the build process to give these tanks more stability on sloped surfaces. “Just a few years ago, self-supporting tanks were built with a more straight-up-and-down side wall and would not work very well on slopes,” says Claeys. The result, he says, was that a tank would be half full, fall over because of instability, and dump water on the ground. Husky offers money-back guarantees on its self-supporting tanks as well. “The big advantage is their storage options and one-person setup options,” he adds. “Husky will continue to push the envelope for new and useful innovations.”

Other Initiatives

Husky Portable Containment has enjoyed steady growth during its almost nine years. This success has led to what will be its second move into a larger facility to accommodate greater capacity, but also the opportunity to give back.

The company is a National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Red Helmet Sponsor, regularly donates to the National MS Society and the American Cancer Society, and will donate product to areas devastated by national disasters.

Bright Future

Claeys believes that Husky provides the total package, which includes great customer service and outstanding quality. “We have the best warranty on the market,” he says. “We build safe, durable, economical, and useful products. We listen to our customers. Our product design team is fresh, innovative, and pays attention to every detail.”

And although growth for the company has been steady, Claeys knows things take time. “Everything’s a slow process,” he says. “Nothing happens overnight. The closest thing to that would be the handles-once they took off, it was huge. But, we keep selling more and more tanks, and I attribute it to our products, quality, and customer service.”

CHRIS Mc LOONE, associate editor of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment, is a 20-year veteran of the fire service and an assistant chief with Weldon Fire Company (Glenside, PA). He has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years. While with Fire Engineering, he contributed to the May 2006 issue, a Jesse H. Neal Award winner for its coverage of the Hurricane Katrina response and recovery.