Molded components manufacturer Air Logic, based out of Wisconsin, is perhaps best known in its industry for its orifice restrictors, the flow control devices that work especially well in mass-produced devices from coffee makers to ventilators and more.
One practice baked into company culture is implementing 100 percent testing into its quality control procedures. Director of Air Logic John Hayden admits that there are arguments against that type of policy, as many industries do sample testing under 100 percent due to a low rate of failure; however, many of the industries to which Air Logic sells are hyper-critical of quality, such as ventilators or companies dealing in chemical dilution, so every single part must be working correctly in important products like these.
“A small chance of failure could lead to someone getting sick, [so] we strategically work flow rate checks into automation processes because it’s the right thing to do,” he affirms. Everything is done in-house as it is vertically integrated from a molding standpoint, and it designs its own parts and tooling.
Air Logic is itself a division of plastic injection molding company Knapp Manufacturing, Inc. Before it owned Air Logic, Knapp was known as a family-owned company that created molded components for Wisconsin-based manufacturer Johnson Controls since the 1960s.
Johnson Controls primarily built parts related to heating and air conditioning, and at the time, had a control system based on pneumatics, which were more common before microcontrollers and electro-sensors. In 1975, Johnson Controls switched to these electronic and micro-controller systems and sold the pneumatic line to Knapp, which eventually established Air Logic as its division.
Jay Haertel, Jon Boticki, and David Horvath purchased the company from the Knapp Family in 1993 and became its three principal owners. Then, roughly six years ago, John Korako was hired to implement a new internal management team at the company. In 2019, the team officially got up and running in brand new offices, with Korako himself promoted to company president in October 2021. This allowed Haertel, Boticki, and Horvath to step away from daily duties as the new management team now fully running the business. The three still serve as members of the company’s board.
Director of Air Logic John Hayden describes the three previous owners as down-to-earth people who began working for Air Logic while fresh out of high school and, as such, never had the chance to work for bigger companies. The company’s new management team is a mix of home-grown talent and people from larger corporate companies with business systems experience. So far, things have gone smoothly in the transition thanks to the efforts of the three.
The company operates with respect to three core values: dignity, respect, and trust. Hayden has seen Air Logic and its employees exhibit all three in spades, but the one he has seen perhaps most of all is trust. This was especially apparent with the three owners who, after sporting such a long tenure at the business, have taken a back seat role to let department supervisors and managers run it as they see fit. This serves as a tangible example of how the company’s managers trust its employees, a refreshing change from Hayden’s own corporate experiences in which companies routinely demonstrated a lack of trust in the efforts of their workers.
He calls the Air Logic team a tight-knit group, and the company is quick to celebrate their victories, especially with lavish parties. This camaraderie was especially necessary during 2020, as the company saw high demand in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic for ventilator parts. The ventilator demand was unprecedented but Air Logic managed to hit all its targets and instituted a bonus and a party for its employees who persevered during tough times. The pandemic “brought everyone closer together because we all had a singular focus and agreed-upon goals.”
Outside of fraught global instances, many of Air Logic’s employees are long-tenured, with some boasting thirty-five to fifty years of experience in the company thanks to a generally high rate of employee satisfaction. The business also likes to build its employees up for the future, hiring local apprenticeship toolmakers and helping its people along their educational paths into apprenticeship to eventually become full-fledged toolmakers.
Only a few decades ago, Air Logic existed solely in the industrial automation space. Throughout the 2000s, it moved more into manufacturing components for medical and life science devices, such as analytical and bio-fabrication devices. In industrial sectors, as Hayden sees it, a lot of businesses still use pneumatics but, as things become more electrified, it is not a big growth sector. “That side of the industry is flat,” he explains.
In device-driven industries, however, growth is a constant, which is why the company is so interested in fields like bio-fabrication. Companies in that field are focusing on projects like fabricating human veins via machines, for example, for use in medical and surgical procedures, looking to eliminate the need to re-use human veins across the body and limit bodily rejection in such procedures. The company has even joined with Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI), which features people across academia, industry, and research working on solving problems in fields like bio-fabrication.
“It seems like the birth of an industry,” Hayden says, reflecting on the many business and humanitarian opportunities lying within and confident that Air Logic can be part of the solution. As organs need to be grown in very particular environments, companies like this can help with the flow rate and process issues.
Hayden also sees product compliance as another trend as, annually, every industry has more compliance requirements. With the United States starting its own compliance requirements to disclose certain chemicals in products, these regulations can be something of a burden on smaller companies like Air Logic as a company or supplier may not have a compliance expert. Hayden views this as an adapt-or-die moment as, if one wants to sell into certain industries, compliance is the only way to go.
Based on this new call for compliance, the company will be undergoing a complete overhaul of its processes through a third party. That party will also look to speed up compliance processes between Air Logic’s suppliers and make statistics more available and accessible online.
Hayden had two goals for the company upon entering marketing: overhaul the website and produce original video content. Now that the former has been accomplished, work will be put into making videos of the company’s products, which he considers an important step. This will enable customers to better understand usage and installation and will enable better education on the company’s offerings.
Air Logic sells all its products through distributors, some of whom have had twenty-to forty-year relationships with the company. The company is looking at its distributors individually, citing Industrial Specialties out of Colorado as an example of a perfect match that it has brought into the fold. It is also looking to expand on the product line with new inserts to allow for greater flow control, preferable for a manifold or housing.
The company has big goals moving forward and is keen to rely on the skills and values of its employees to see that these goals are not only met, but exceeded, on the way to making Air Logic one of the country’s go-to manufacturers in its field.