Case Studies

HydroHoist Marine Group Inc.

Putting Technology to the Test

HydroHoist Marine Group Inc. (HydroHoist) leads the boat lift industry by producing economical, low-maintenance products that get boats into and out of the water faster and more safely than any other product on the market. The company employs a team of the most talented and experienced professionals in the industry and provides them with the tools and autonomy needed to pursue true innovation. As a result, HydroHoist enjoys some of the highest customer satisfaction ratings and product resale values in the industry, but the company has never been one to rest easy on its laurels.

Instead, the HydroHoist team continually reassesses the potential applications of its creations, breaking open new markets in the process.
HydroHoist was built upon the advantages of its patented pneumatic lift system, the intellectual offspring of Henry Rutter, founder of HydroHoist. Rutter owned and operated a marina in Oklahoma’s Grand Lake in the 1960s and set out simply to build a better mousetrap for his customers; the product he wound up creating went on to revolutionize the boating industry. Demand for dry dock storage was high at the time, but the problem in Rutter’s case was that floating docks and heavy winches don’t play nicely together.

“It may seem funny, but Rutter’s first product managed to lift a 22-foot Cobalt boat using the motor from his wife’s vacuum cleaner,” chuckles Mick Webber, president, CEO and owner of HydroHoist since 2006. Like many revolutionary products, Rutter’s creation was beautiful because of its simplicity. Two inverted fiberglass tubes were submerged and water was forced out of the tubes and replaced with air by running the vacuum motor in reverse. The air displaces the water, creating vertical lift and buoyancy and raising the watercraft gently out of the water. For his efforts, Rutter was awarded the first-ever patent on a boat lift using water-to-air displacement in 1969.

Building a Better Mousetrap

Eventually, the vacuum motor was replaced with more reliable sources of power and the first level-lifting product was launched in 1972, the same year HydroHoist moved its production facility to Claremore, Okla., just outside of Tulsa. By 1977 HydroHoist had an established network of dealers nationwide and the first free-floating product was launched in 1980, the same year that HydroHoist launched the first multivalve control center. HydroHoist expanded with a lift for personal watercrafts in 1998.

Change came again in 2002 when the company switched over from fiberglass to polyethylene tanks. “Polyethylene solves some of the problems that fiberglass tanks experienced – like the tendency to crack in shallow waters – but polyethylene is also a greener material choice,” explains Webber. Polyethylene is more durable, more resistant to shear forces, and more easily recycled than fiberglass.

Today, HydroHoist’s 110 employees assemble both fixed and freestanding lifts with off-the-shelf options for lifting up to 60,000 pounds (it even can provide custom service models capable of lifting up to 120,000 pounds). All of its projects – which include the UltraLift-2, UL2 Shallow Water, UL2 Front Mount, Side-Tie ‘B’ Model and the HydroLaunch – are manufactured at the company’s Oklahoma fabrication facilities. The company’s distributor network spans 600 dealers across the U.S. and overseas, including a joint venture based out of Brisbane, Australia. Every model still lives up to Rutter’s original mission of blending the advantages of dry dock storage and the convenience of in-water storage. HydroHoist users can flip a switch and launch their watercraft in as little as three minutes, eliminating the need for ramps, trailers and scraping barnacles off hulls at the end of every season, which helps extend the lifecycle of the watercraft.

Leaders in Lift

HydroHoist also launched HyPower Power Pedestals to provide a line of easy-to-maintain, configurable, extra durable power pedestals, dock boxes, fire centers, light centers and electrical power hookups suited for marina and RV applications. The product’s patented PowerSnap technology allows users to swiftly replace broken power panels by turning the power off, unscrewing four screws and swapping out the old panel for a brand new one on the spot. High-pressure injection-molding cases make HyPower products – including the PowerPort and EnergyMate – weathertight, and as an added bonus the products can be mounted on a weather-proof base, making it literally a snap to remove the power head in preparation for winter or severe storms.

“We’re always looking for new ways to really extend the gap between our products and the competition,” asserts Webber. “We maintain three in-house professional engineers, which can be really hard to attract in our industry, but I believe that we advance when we hire the right people. Our team is just phenomenal and it’s because of them that we are able to look ahead three to five years to develop new products and new markets.”

HydroHoist’s engineering talent achieved a major milestone in 2010 when the team developed a way of replacing many metal components with a single cast steel piece. According to Webber, the goal was to maintain the products’ already high functionality, while also adding in the extra advantage of superior tensile strength. The proprietary components were paired down to their most basic forms to be cast in a single piece, which reduced the amount of pivoting points and stress points, making the products “virtually indestructible,” as Webber puts it.

HydroHoist’s push toward innovative solutions shows no signs of stopping in the years to come. In fact, Webber hopes to leverage HydroHoist’s resources to create new products with applications beyond the marine industry as part of an aggressive diversification initiative. “We’re finalizing the details on a couple of acquisitions and we’re also wrapping up the details on a new product for the transportation industry,” states Webber.

Wherever the HydroHoist team looks to find growth, the company’s engineering talent will ensure the company finds success in any economic climate. HydroHoist Marine Group adds another stone in its legacy of product innovation with every new venture, and as it nears its 50th anniversary the company will keep expanding on a reputation as America’s No. 1 boat lift.

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Spring 2018



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