A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Jason International factory in Little Rock, Arkansas. Jason is a family company with a deep history in the whirlpool business.
Many people do not know that Jacuzzi was a family name before it was a whirlpool tub brand. The Jacuzzi family settled in Northern California in the early 1900’s and the four brothers went into business, first in manufacturing for aviation and later working with deep well injector pumps. (for the complete story click here).
In the 1940’s Kenneth Jacuzzi, a son of one of the original four brothers, developed rheumatoid arthritis and the brothers turned their skill to the development of a hydrotherapy system to ease his pain. This was a unit that could be added to a home bath tub. Eventually their inventions lead to the creation of the Jacuzzi Bath Company.
The family ultimately sold the Jacuzzi company and name to a large conglomerate. After the sale Remo Jacuzzi, who had been president of Jacuzzi Brazil and is the son of one of the original four brothers, remained with the company as president of Jacuzzi. In 1982 Remo left Jacuzzi to form his own company, Jason International, producing luxury-class baths in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Because he could no longer use the Jacuzzi name he called the company “Jason” (as in Jacuzzi Son).
What was most interesting to me on this trip was the factory tour. Remo V. Jacuzzi (son of the founder) took us through the plant from the beginning to the end of the manufacturing process. The process begins with thermoforming the acrylic tub shells. This is a fun process to watch. First the sheet of acrylic is heated in a giant oven, then it is introduced to the mould and vacuum pressure is used to pull the acrylic into the shape of the mould. In the factory we were able to stand near the oven (it was hot!) then watch as the sheet was pulled into the shape of a tub. Neat! The shell is allowed to cool before moving on to the next step.
Acrylic shells are great as a finish surface but have no structural strength. The next step is to apply the fiberglass that will provide the structural strength of the tub. The shell is placed into a spray booth and the fiberglass material is sprayed on. The raw fiberglass comes in a string form that is pulled into the machine, mixed with epoxy and then ejected as a thick spray onto the exterior of the acrylic shell. It takes a skilled worker to do this quickly and effectively and the men working at Jason seemed to be very good at the job. Once the all the fiberglass has been applied workers use handheld rollers to roll the fiberglass material flat and remove any air pockets.
So far the process has been pretty standard but now Jason begins to add some features that
one does not see in most acrylic tubs. First is their “level-foam base” which is applied to the entire bottom of the tub. This saves the installer from having to use a mortar base; assuming the floor is level he can just set the bathtub down and he’s done. In the factory we watched as one of the technicians poured the foam into moulds and then trimmed the finished product before applying it to a tub.
Now that the shell has been finished it is time to drill holes for mounting the jets, drain and accessories. Did you ever wonder why the jets are placed where they are in a tub? At Jason they employ physical therapists to work with tub designers to determine what jet locations will produce maximum benefit for the bather. They really think about how the body will fit into a particular tub and place the jets accordingly. This makes a huge difference to the effectiveness of the hydrotherapy.
Because drilling locations need to be accurate this phase of the work is done by robots. If you have ever seen industrial robots work you know what I mean when I say it is very cool to watch. It seems almost alive with a long arm that moves quickly around the tub drilling and trimming the shell. A couple of times we thought the robot had made an error in a cut only to see it go back and correct itself.
Now the bathtub is ready to have the jetting system installed and again Jason adds a little extra. If you have ever used a whirlpool with standard jets you have probably experienced the skin irritation that is caused when a narrow jet of water is directed straight at your body. The “Perfect Pressure/Perfect Flow” jets used by Jason have a larger capacity which provides a strong massage without the stinging of smaller jets.
After seeing how these tubs are made and talking to the people in the factory I was pretty impressed. Still, while everything I saw lead me to believe that this was a special product I hadn’t actually experienced a Jason whirlpool (I did sit in a few of the models but it isn’t quite the same). But the folks at Jason had already thought of this and they had a plan.
There is a showroom in Little Rock that has most of the Jason models on display. One, an LX635, is working and located in a private area with a changing room so clients can bring a bathing suit and try out a tub. So, Saturday morning they loaded us up in vans and drove us to this showroom (which fortunately was closed to the public that day) so we could try a tub for ourselves. It took a little while but we all had a chance to use the tub and experience Jason hydrotherapy firsthand.
I enjoy a bath but I have never been a big fan of jets as I have experienced the irritation I mentioned above. This tub truly was different. I can honestly say that these jets were very comfortable and I would have been content to stay in that tub for quite awhile. The tub included the jetted neck pillow option which I highly recommend and the LED chromatherapy.
One thing that made the experience more pleasant was something that Jason calls their “Sani-design”. These design details include self-draining jets, cleaning access and an ozone sanitizing system; all designed to insure that the jet system stays clean and free from germs and impurities. Knowing the tub will always be clean adds a lot to the enjoyment of a whirlpool.
I have been on a number of factory trips over the years and sometimes they can be tedious. Not this trip. The people at Jason clearly believe in their product and their enthusiasm is apparent. Having a good product is important but so it having good people. Looks like Jason’s got it right on both counts.