A simple request for a leak-free coupling to a sales rep turned into one of the industry’s leading designers and manufacturers of flat face couplings. That’s how Holmbury Inc. got its start. The company’s founder, David French, was a hydraulic filter salesman and engineer by training when one of his larger customers — a manufacturer of European-based construction equipment — asked him about flat face couplings.
“Essentially they said, ‘We like the concept of a flat face coupling, which is different than the traditional poppet style coupling, however the parts that we’ve been supplied with leak. They’re not very effective. So if you can produce a similar coupling that doesn’t leak or spill, we would be very interested,’” said Matt Mulder, President, Holmbury Inc.
French took the part away, reverse-engineered it, and designed a flat face coupling that didn’t leak. That was in 1982, and essentially the beginning of Holmbury as the company exists today.
After this, he started supplying that customer — JCB— with flat face couplings. His first designs were ½ and 3/8 in., and over the course of the next several years, he expanded that offering to include everything from 3/8 up to 2 in. in a flat face product.
Throughout the 1980s, other quick coupling companies developed their own flat face product offering, each with its own proprietary design. No standard existed and the parts did not interconnect with one another.
Flash forward to 1997, when the International Standards Organization (ISO) committee evaluated the various flat face coupling designs with the intent to define a standard, and the Holmbury design was selected as the basis of ISO-16028. Mulder said the Holmbury design was selected because of its performance characteristics.
Further down the road in 2006, Holmbury was also the first quick coupling company to introduce zinc nickel plating as an alternative to the traditional hexavalent chrome plating. “Zinc nickel has a superior corrosion resistant characteristic,” Mulder said. “The corrosion resistant performance of the zinc nickel plating is in excess of 1,200 hours without any evidence of white or red rust. Whereas the traditional trivalent chrome, there’s evidence of corrosion within say the first 48 hours in a salt spray chamber. So the plating process is a little bit more expensive or costly, but the performance advantages are huge.”
Holmbury contracted with an independent lab to conduct testing on these designs, which evaluated the new zinc nickel design and compared it with three other competitive product offerings.
This zinc nickel design was so successful in the flat face design that the company eventually introduced the zinc nickel plating on its poppet style couplings in 2014. And today, Holmbury is the only quick coupling supplier that offers zinc nickel plating in an ISO A agricultural coupling or industrial B coupling.
The company also recently added a decompression block coupler to its catalog, making it just one of the three out of two dozen quick coupling companies that actually provides a decompression block solution.
“Even though we’re small, we’re very well respected in terms of our technical know-how and design capability,” Mulder said.
From its beginnings as just a two person entrepreneurial venture, the company has grown, with more than 40 employees worldwide with offices in the US, Western Europe, and China.
“Ours is more of a … I don’t like the term rags to riches story, but it really is of sorts. David started out with ten bucks in his pocket,” Mulder said. “He took a risk and invested a lot of time, energy, and effort into developing the foundational product for Holmbury, and it’s just taken off from there.”