A rented garage proved far too small to contain the innovative spirit of American Augers Inc. The Ohio-based company busted through the walls of its first home and grew into a leading international manufacturer of underground construction equipment, including large directional drills. Dan Harvey charts its 37-year growth.
Depending on how you read American Augers’ slogan, “Drilling the World with Success,” the phrase can have different meanings. The most obvious interpretation is that it refers to the effectiveness of the West Salem, Ohio-based company’s rugged underground construction products.
Another way of looking at it is by focusing on the verb, “drilling,” which can suggest firmly driving home a strong message. In this case, American Augers’ message to the world is about the success it has enjoyed in helping customers. For more than 30 years, the progressive company has developed the most innovative equipment to meet their changing needs, in the process changing the way that utility contractors work. In particular, American Augers has led the way in the underground construction market, developing cutting edge equipment for customers that build the underground utility infrastructure.
Also, the reference to the world contained with the slogan is quite appropriate, as it indicates American Augers’ global reach. “People tend to think of us as a manufacturer that only focuses on U.S. or North American Augers markets, but our products are used on every inhabited continent,” reveals Rob Foster, the company’s marketing manager. “We have a worldwide customer base.”
Indeed, American Augers has grown to become the world’s largest manufacturer that specializes in trench-less construction equipment. Its product line includes auger boring machines, large directional drills, mud pump and cleaning systems, and accessory items. Applications for the equipment include boring through cobble, soil and rock; oil and gas well drilling projects; and utilities installation involving utility lines, water lines and sewer lines.
American Augers brings 37 years of experience to the design and manufacture of its products. It defines this collected expertise as the “ Advantage,” as it has enabled the company to assume an industry leadership position as far as the mechanical, technological, and customer-based design improvements for the horizontal earth boring and vertical directional drill markets.
“Our experience is what really sets us apart from our competitors. We are way out in front, as far as that is concerned,” says Foster.
The company was founded in 1970 in a small, rented garage near Wooster, Ohio. In this modest setting, it began producing its first product line: auger boring machines. “At the time, these were the easiest to make,” says Foster. “Then, throughout the next three decades, we experienced tremendous growth. We moved to our present location in West Salem, and we focused on expanding our product line.”
Today, American Augers is a subsidiary of Astec Industries, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based organization with a family of companies that manufacture equipment for aggregate processing, asphalt road building and pipeline and utility trenching. American Augers is part of Astec’s Underground Group, and it produces all of its machines at its West Salem headquarters. With 160 employees, the facility turns out 60 to 80 machines a year, according to Foster. “We can take a machine from start to finish and create a very solid product,” he says.
Innovative and Versatile Products
Throughout its history, American Augers has continued to improve and innovate the technology behind its auger boring systems. The equipment provides an enormous range of thrust and torque power to meet challenges inherent in the most difficult environments. Further, all boring systems boast next-generation design and come equipped with the company’s exclusive Quick Tran technology, a fast-return rack-and-pinion system that makes the auger-boring equipment safer and more efficient.
“We were the first manufacturer to use a rack-and-pinion design, which has now become the industry standard,” reveals Foster. “Quik Tran is a high-speed system that benefits the machine during retract and makes it more stable and, thus, more safe.”
While the company continued to improve and advance the technology behind its auger boring products, it continually added to its product line, which grew to include large directional drills, mud and pump cleaning systems, and accessories and tooling. “Our versatility also sets us apart from the competition,” says Foster.
Today, the company’s specialty is its directional drills, which are utilized in a variety of utility and underground applications. Each drill is designed for extended work life and flexible use. All drills feature durable rack-and-pinion design, superior structural strength of the thrust frame, full wrench travel for the length of thrust frame, dedicated pumps for rotary and thrust, and dedicated hydraulic circuits, among other advantages.
American Augers’ directional drill line includes the DD-1100 model, which the company indicates is the industry’s most powerful self-contained directional drill. It boasts a 1,100,000-pound thrust/pullback force and 100,000 foot-pounds of rotary torque powered by a 700 hp diesel engine, and is designed with the American Augers innovative rack & pinion system. The D-1100 was designed to be the premier piece of equipment for handling large utility construction or pipeline projects.
American Augers mud pump and cleaning system line includes stand-alone mud pumps that can be used to power the biggest mud motor. The company’s mud cleaners use linear shakers, instead of the random shakers that competitors employ. Linear shakers increase a drill’s efficiency in recycling mud.
The company’s product accessories and tooling offerings can provide a customer with additional horsepower, improved cutting ability, operator comfort and a range options designed to improve operator performance.
American Augers has enjoyed tremendous growth in recent years. “Last year, it was up at 50 percent,” informs Foster. “A lot of our growth is due to the overall growth of the underground utility industry.”
That industry, Foster adds, has exploded in the past two years. “That’s the biggest trend we’re seeing right now. There’s a huge need for underground utilities in municipal applications, and we’re trying to be in the forefront in supplying the product lines to benefit the customers in catching up with that trend. As everyone goes underground, we stay up front.”
That effort translates into enviable market positions. According to Foster, American Augers is number-one in the auger boring machines market, and the company is among the top three in directional drill sales.
Success in the burgeoning underground construction market requires the capacity to anticipate customers’ needs and then to innovate accordingly, which is precisely what American Augers does. “Beside our experience, our ability to innovate is what differentiates us from the competition,” says Foster. “What also sets us apart is the durability and versatility of our equipment. We’re a well-branded name in this industry.”
That’s all part of the core values that existed at the heart of American Augers, right from its beginning in that small garage and through the ensuing decades of expansion, when it collected valuable experience and advanced the industry’s technology. The commitment to customer satisfaction and product quality augured well for the customers of American Augers.