By Michael Zakrzewski
Turf managers know having the best equipment for any job is essential. And when that equipment malfunctions or reveals a design flaw in use, manufacturer response can make all the difference in brand loyalty. Recently, the popular aerator, the Air2G2 from GT AirInject Inc., experienced a failure in some of its seals, but a quick response with an effective solution, kept the unit in play at its high profile golf and sports venues.
High Profile Customers
The winner of Sports Turf Managers Association’s “2015 Innovation Award” and the “2016 HSBC Golf Business Forum Innovation Award,” among others, the Air2G2 is widely-recognized for its unique air-injection process. Clients such as St. Andrews and Glen Eagle golf courses, and sports fields like Wrigley Field, the Houston Astrodome, and Levi’s Stadium (home to the San Francisco 49ers) depend on its “true aerification.”
The Air2G2 fractures the hardpan layers to facilitate airflow and increase drainage with minimal disruption to the surface above or damage to the roots below. This is accomplished by three probes that laterally inject pressurized air up to 12-inches beneath the surface of the soil, covering a diameter of up to nine feet, and reaching well into the soil profile.
Discovering A Flaw
Despite its strong performance, some of the units began experiencing a failure of their seals. GT AirInject operations manager and R&D manager Scott Jones explained, “The failure of the seal was causing the units to lose pressure in the cylinder. What made it worse was that the problem was occurring randomly – anywhere from within the first 10 hours of use to after 100 or more hours of use. We knew we had to find a solution and quickly.”
GT AirInject, based in Jacksonville, FL, acted swiftly and sought help from Gainesville, FL-based Fabco-Air, part of the Festo Group, and an industry pioneer in the manufacturing of advanced pneumatic products. Working in close concert with GT AirInject executives, Fabco-Air developed a customized solution incorporating advanced air cylinder and valve technology which mitigated the seal problem. The cutting edge solution is comprised of pneumatic actuators; mechanical devices that use compressed air acting on a piston inside a cylinder.
While the new design was incorporated into the production of all new units, it still left the old units in the field with the risk of a seal malfunction. To correct the problem on customers’ existing units, Fabco-Air designed a cost-effective retrofit kit. In addition to making it readily available to its North American customers, GT AirInject shipped out several hundred kits to the European market, where GT AirInject’s general manager Todd Jones personally installed the new cylinders.
As a result of the quick and effective solution deployment, GT AirInject and its Air2G2 suffered no brand damage. In fact, the relatively young company actually scored points with many golf course and sports field operators, who appreciated its high service integrity, as well as the development of an economically feasible retrofit kit.
GT AirInject President Glen Black credits the engineering know-how and advanced air cylinder/valve technologies provided by Fabco-Air as instrumental in its continued strong market standing. “Because Fabco-Air came to our rescue, we were able to demonstrate our commitment to providing high quality, high reliability equipment backed by the highest standards of customer service,” he commented.
Black also noted that the company has not suffered any negative repercussions. Rather, it has been experiencing steady annual growth in the 10% to 15% range, and higher profit margins. On May 20, 2019, GT AirInject, Inc. received yet another distinction. The company was named the U.S. Senate’s “Small Business of the Week” in recognition of its “quality and innovation,” and for its “innovative product that has generated global demand” as well as “create American jobs.”
Zakrzewski is vice president, market management, North America, Festo Corporation and COO for Fabco-Air, Inc., a member of the Festo Group.