By Edward C. Gregor, Editorial Board Chairman, International Filtration News
Donald Krause is general manager of Flow Ezy Filters, a company he has led for the past 25 years. Established in 1945 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Flow Ezy has focused on filtration since its inception.
In the early years, Flow Ezy Filters began as a company making custom filters for the refrigeration industry. Over time, it has expanded far beyond that to making filtration products for a wide variety of markets. Flow Ezy’s primary concentration now is in the fluid power/hydraulics market. As a manufacturer, Flow Ezy sells most of its products through distributors, respecting its long-term relationships with them.
In addition to Flow Ezy’s standard product line, products consist of suction strainers, tank mounted strainers, tank breathers, in-line filters, and related filtration products. The company has added over 30,000 interchanges, or cross-overs, to other manufacturer’s filters, and it has introduced a line of filters for the high-performance racing, earning considerable respect and accolades within that industry. Flow Ezy takes pride in manufacturing its products in the United States to the highest engineering standards.
Flow Ezy’s Krause recently sat down with me for a conversation about its business and trends in the filtration industry as a whole.
Ed Gregor: Are your sales OEM through a sales force, direct from your facilities, or through distribution?
Don Krause: Primarily our sales are through distribution with over 3,500 distributors worldwide. The distributors are our sales force in the field, and we honor that relationship. We do have some large OEMs that have been customers for decades. We will do joint calls, in some cases, with our distributors if they need a filtration specialist in the field. When someone calls for our products or has questions about an application, we are always glad to help them out and answer any questions they have. However, we will refer them to one of our distributors for purchasing.
Ed Gregor: It appears Flow Ezy offers many specialty metal filters from wire cloth and what appear to be specialty constructions. Is this your focus or the nature of the business?
Don Krause: Wire cloth is our specialty. We also do some synthetics and cellulose, but we are probably one of the largest wire cloth fabricators today. We can make filters as fine as 5 micron using wire cloth. Wire cloth weaving technology today is amazing. In addition to our standard product line, we continue to make custom filters, as well.
Ed Gregor: Are custom constructions the nature of your business or does the company have a product line or both? Please elaborate.
Don Krause: We have the capability to make almost any kind of custom filter with wire cloth media. Of course, there has to be some quantity involved to be cost effective for us and our customer. Plus, with production demands today, we focus on our product line. One thing that has taken us to one step above the rest is over the years we have been asked by our distributors, “Do you have a cross for this filter or that filter?” This has led us to develop our extensive line of interchanges and crossovers, which are now at over 30,000 other filter interchangeable designs. Most we make, some we have excellent sources for, but we can service our customer.
Ed Gregor: Do customers typically give you their criteria for a new filter or design the product and send prints to Flow Ezy for quotation?
Don Krause: In most cases, our customers will provide a sketch, drawing, or specs to what they are looking for. We always make sure that all “prep” work is done before recommending which direction should be taken. Most of the time, we can help them within our company product line. If we cannot help them we refer them to a company that can. We work with other quality filter companies where we can always make sure the customer can acquire the filtration they need for their application.
Ed Gregor: Are there any filter constructions for high-pressure and/or performance uses the company backs away from or seeks out.
Don Krause: With the Flow Ezy footprint in the fluid power/hydraulics industry, the highest pressure rated filter we offer is up to 3,000 PSI for low-flow applications. However, we offer another manufacturer’s filter if the need is up to 10,000 PSI. We have some excellent sources outside of Flow Ezy where sometimes we are able to help the customer. When we are contacted for applications that are beyond our capabilities, we will always refer them to someone who can help.
Ed Gregor: As a quality supplier, I assume you have many industries seeking Flow Ezy skills and years of experience. Are there market areas you prefer to focus on?
Don Krause: We focus on the fluid power/hydraulics market and the high-performance racing market. Our total product line is geared mainly in these areas. There are other markets we have a presence in that overlap these, i.e., forestry, heavy equipment, machine tool & metalworking, mining, oil & gas, power generation, and print & ink.
Actually, we are quite diversified with our product offerings. Because we have such a heavy footprint in the fluid power industry, within the last 6 years we have partnered with a UK company in offering magnetic filtration. Because of our proprietary pleating methods and construction of our filters, we are heavy in the high performance racing industry. We can do things with wire cloth that others can’t.
Ed Gregor: What are some of the long-term trends you see in the filtration industry? What do you see in the future?
Don Krause: Oh my! It seems that almost on a daily basis, a new product is being offered with more integration, like mechanical/electrical/fluid power component, for instance. Impacting the industry is an ever-advancing technology coupled with the “human” factor. With more and more industry companies merging together, this offers more broad based knowledge, expertise, products, and opportunities for customers and their applications. This also helps with the larger need globally with expanding populations and building of infrastructure and brings not only the fluid power industry to the front, but its affiliated industries, too.