A long legacy of success

As McElroy celebrates its 70th anniversary, the company remains a leading name in plastic pipe fusion equipment.

The company’s roots stretch all the way back to March 1954, when Art and Panny McElroy launched their new business, McElroy Manufacturing, in their garage in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

It was the couple’s dream. Art, an engineer and inventor at heart, had an entrepreneurial spirit that propelled him to always look for a better way to make things work.

From those humble beginnings, the company has grown to become a leader in fusion equipment, with machines to tackle the largest and smallest jobs in the world. Today, the McElroy family continues to keep the company at the forefront of fusion equipment, technology, and training.

McElroy founder Art McElroy stands with one of the company’s earliest fusion machines. Image supplied by McElroy.

A long legacy

In the late 1960s, McElroy came onto the pipe fusion scene with a 6-inch hand pump machine for Phillips. This machine was specifically designed to fuse Phillips’s high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe.

Unlike the medium-density polyethylene used at the time, HDPE required a balanced fusion force across the joint, a higher temperature, and a higher fusion force.

Art agreed with the Phillips team, who believed this new type of pipe would challenge the dominance of steel pipe used throughout gas distribution systems in the U.S.

The company quickly expanded its line, debuting its first 24-inch fusion machine in 1972, followed by a 48-inch fusion machine in 1973. Just a year later, McElroy again revolutionised the industry with a 12-inch, self-contained wheeled fusion machine that could face, heat, and fuse pipe.

McElroy’s trajectory was officially set. But still, the company continued to innovate, designing machines like the Pit Bull®, which allows for in-ditch fusion.

More wheeled machines – today known as McElroy’s Rolling line – were released as well, giving crews more control over where their fusions were performed.

Then, in 1997, the company debuted the machine that would become known as one of the world’s flagship pieces of pipe fusion equipment: the TracStar®.

Introduced by Art McElroy’s son, Chip McElroy, the TracStar line made waves in the world of fusion. The machine was the first of its kind, and unlike other machines at the time, it could be driven directly to a fusion site, reducing the need for heavy machinery on the location.

At the same time, its carriage can be removed from the chassis, allowing it to be used for close-quarter or in-ditch applications. Today, the TracStar line is the number-one choice on fusion jobs that involve long stretches of pipe, thanks to the machine’s maneuverability and freedom of movement.

In 2023, McElroy announced the purchase of a new, 193,000 square foot facility in the Tulsa metro area. This latest campus will provide growth space while also serving as the company’s new “front door” in Tulsa. Image supplied by McElroy.

When it became clear that HDPE pipelines were only getting bigger – both in size and in scope – McElroy responded with the Talon ™ 2000.

McElroy’s largest machine to date, the Talon 2000 is tailored to fusing large-diameter pipe from 54-inch OD to 78-inch OD. Its design allows it to self-load pipe from the ground, and like the TracStar line it is self-contained, self-propelled, and track-mounted for maneuverability. Like other McElroy machines, the Talon 2000 has gone on to work in some of the harshest conditions worldwide.

Building on the TracStar’s success, McElroy introduced the TracStar® iSeries in 2020. The iSeries maintains the TracStar’s durable, self-contained vehicle, while adding industry-changing technology to improve user experience regardless of the site or application.

The power of innovation

As time passed, McElroy’s impact on the plastic pipe industry continued to grow. In 2008, McElroy was one of the founders of the PE Alliance, an organisation dedicated to spreading the word about the benefits of HDPE pipe, along with its many potential applications. But McElroy was also looking for ways to adapt technology to improve both McElroy equipment and the jobs where they were used.

In the 1990s, McElroy began its first efforts to integrate technology into its equipment. The first DataLogger® was released in 1996 as a way for fusion operators to record fusion parameters and other relevant jobsite information.

Since founding, McElroy has maintained a philosophy of innovation and as technology has evolved, so has the DataLogger itself. The most recent generation of DataLogger, the DataLogger® 7, is a versatile, ruggedised tablet that can also be used to assist with equipment inspections, machine troubleshooting, fleet maintenance, and more.

Today’s DataLogger also works alongside the TracStar iSeries line, streamlining both the fusion process and the joint data that comes from it.

Art McElroy’s son, Chip McElroy, stands with a TracStar® 900i. Image supplied by McElroy.

The Vault™, McElroy’s powerful cloud-based data storage platform, came online in 2013, giving operators, contractors, and inspectors the ability to view joint data from anywhere in the world.

Another innovation that dramatically changed productivity was McElroy Optimized Cooling™. This real-time algorithm developed in a partnership with McElroy and the University of Tulsa, re-examined and tested standards for calculating cooling times for heat-fused HDPE.

In the classroom

A fusion machine is only as good as its operator. In 1981, McElroy created McElroy University as a way to train fusion operators on the techniques, standards, and skills necessary for optimal jobsite performance.

As proper training is a critical component to the fusion process, McElroy University has grown throughout the decades and now encompasses classes for technicians, inspections, and engineers. Students who successfully pass operations, maintenance, or inspector courses receive industry-recognised, manufacturer-backed training credentials that are readily accepted around the world.

McElroy is constantly tailoring its class lineup to the current needs of the industry, and it offers classes both online and in-person.

Looking ahead

Now 70 years after Art and Panny McElroy founded McElroy Manufacturing, the company continues to look to the future. For the past 35 years, Art and Panny’s children Donna Dutton, Peggy Tanner, and Chip McElroy – have not only taken the reins but have also grown McElroy to meet the needs of the industry.

In 2023, McElroy announced the purchase of a new, 193,000 square foot facility in the Tulsa, Oklahoma metropolitan area. Not only will this new campus serve as McElroy’s ‘front door’, but it will also provide additional space for a growing number of machines.

For more information, visit mcelroy.com.

This article featured in the March edition of The Australian Pipeliner. 

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