Hathorn Equips Itself for Growth Period

The Ontario-based inspection camera manufacturer looks to build on its years of producing quality, reliable equipment by staying on top of technological trends and tapping new markets

Hathorn Equips Itself for Growth Period

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Inspection camera manufacturer Hathorn is experiencing a period of growth, despite the conditions created by the pandemic. In fact, being designated an “essential service” means the company is in full swing while so many others are not faring so well.

Rob Luck, Hathorn president, says the company has remained strong during the crisis.

“We’ve been obeying all the health and safety rules, and we’re very proud to be supporting our many customers that keep the pipes flowing,” Luck says. “It’s been a good year for us, and we’re pleased to be supporting our customers, the front-line workers and the community.”

Hathorn prides itself on its history of building quality products with its completely in-house manufacturing process and its quick service and repair turnaround times. Among Hathorn’s customers are not only municipalities, but also plumbers and drain cleaners who tackle a lot of emergency calls and can’t afford to deal with unreliable equipment that remains out of service because of extended repair times.

“There’s no point in having a tool if you can’t use it because it’s in the shop all the time being repaired. People are driven to the Hathorn brand because they know they’re getting a quality piece of equipment that is genuinely designed and manufactured in North America and that they can easily get repaired when needed,” Luck says. “Our repair turnaround times are usually under 72 hours, which we are confident are the quickest in the industry. This saves our clients time and money. Oftentimes the longest part of getting a repair done with us is the customer actually approving the repair.” 

Part of that quality has to do with Hathorn’s aim to produce municipal-grade tools across the board, whether that equipment is actually going to a municipality’s public works crew, a plumber or drain cleaner focused on residential work, or a home inspector looking for something more affordable.

“What that means is we create tools that any municipality or contractor would be happy to have on their truck and put in the ground,” Luck says. “We take that theme of ‘municipal-grade’ and run that through our entire line. Also, because we make 100% of our parts ourselves, we’re able to keep our quality high. That way we can price our products based on options rather than pricing them based on quality.”

A Hathorn employee tests a recently assembled M18 controller.
A Hathorn employee tests a recently assembled M18 controller.

Hathorn, which is headquartered in Ontario, was started in 2003. To this day, the company remains committed to what it focused on from the start — sewer inspection cameras.

“That’s all we’ve ever done,” Luck says. “Our thesis is to do one thing and do it well, which is rare in our industry. We have a culture of continuous improvement here, incorporating feedback from our customers and dealers. Being a single-line company allows us to be very nimble and seek feedback from users. We can then quickly make the changes that the industry demands. We really focus on what’s important to people — a quality North American-made brand that’s reliable and reasonably priced and that can get fixed easily. We’re able to do that without having meeting upon meeting of different levels of the organization that some of the big brands might have. We’re able to pivot very quickly to the market and customer requests.”

One of the key recent changes to Hathorn’s equipment is the shift from internal batteries to external battery power. Customers no longer have to worry about dealing with cords and finding a place to plug in equipment on the job site to recharge it. Instead the camera systems can be powered by 18-volt external batteries.  

“That’s new in the past year, moving everything to external battery power,” Luck says. “That’s a huge leap forward in terms of not only reliability and cost, but also portability. We’re starting to see a lot of interest in our products from more than just the plumbing industry — government agencies, power plants, factories and even the mining industry — it’s anybody who has pipe or a hole to look in. People who are out and away from people’s basements are using our equipment, and they need to have that portability.”

Wi-Fi capability is also relatively new and something that more customers are finding valuable, Luck says.

“You can use our Wi-Fi systems in the middle of the woods if you wanted to,” Luck says. “With our free app and your phone or other mobile device, you simply log in to the network signal generated by our equipment, start the app, then begin camera-ing and recording. With this, we’re finding a lot of franchisees or smaller plumbers can have two or three different-sized cameras and reels in their van for the same price as one larger system with a big 12-inch monitor. So they’re getting upfront savings, as well as a more portable system with the same municipal-grade product and picture quality.” 

Branching off of the Wi-Fi capabilities, a new feature Hathorn is currently working on is an adaptation that would allow its systems to integrate into larger asset management software programs municipalities might use, like POSM Software or PipeLogix, for example.

“That’s pretty rare at the moment, especially for a lateral company, but we’re excited about it and we’re hoping to have something launched in the next few quarters,” Luck says.

As Hathorn continues to do all the things that have defined its brand since 2003, the company is looking to grow. The company has a network of dealers across the U.S., Canada and Australia. Luck says Hathorn is looking to grow that number aggressively.

“The vast majority of our sales (about 80% to 85%) are in the U.S., and there are about 25 dealers across North America right now. We’re looking to double that in the next 12 months if possible,” Luck says. “The main focus of our company over the next four to five years is growth. We’re doing that by hiring staff, introducing new products and expanding into new markets. Contrary to a lot of companies out there that are shrinking and hunkering down in this time of crisis, we’re actually expanding. As part of this growth strategy, we’re doing a full brand reset. We’re updating our logo, the website, our spec sheets and our trade show presence. This reset will modernize our look, thus showing off our new, aggressive expansion, allowing us to access new markets.”

Hathorn’s repair centers factor into that expansion plan. Luck says the company wants to be sure any dealer is located in an area that also has easy access to a repair center for customers. If not something directly local, at least something in the region.

Luck says Hathorn is also keeping in mind with its future plans the new markets that are starting to open up for its equipment beyond just plumbers and drain cleaners.

“It’s mining companies. It’s factories. The government. There are home inspectors calling up saying they need something to get into crawl spaces that can take screen shots to pass to their inspection report. Anywhere there’s a pipe or a hole, you can put a camera in. So the market is actually expanding,” Luck says. “While 2020 has brought different challenges than previous years, Hathorn is stronger than ever with a very bright future ahead of it because of our culture of quality, continuous improvement and laser focus on the needs of our valued clients.”


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