By Donna Kreutz
Family-owned Tomlinson Industries began making faucets for commercial coffee urns and brewers in 1911. Through strategic acquisitions and product developments, the Tomlinson faucet line grew from liquid food and beverage dispensing applications to bottled water, reverse osmosis, filtered hot water and treated-water dispensing applications.
Today, people the world over drink water that flows through faucets, fittings and other products manufactured by Tomlinson Industries in Cleveland, OH. The company has more than 100 employees, many who have worked there for decades.
“This is a very family-oriented organization that takes care of people, so they stay a long time,” said Gary Strunak. He started working in the factory in 1979 and moved from the assembly area to shipping and receiving, then customer service and sales. Since 2000, he has served as National Sales Director for the No-Drip® Faucet Division of the company. Strunak works closely with another long-time employee, Jeanne Engle, who joined the company in 1995 as Advertising Manager. She became Director of Marketing in 2005.
The No-Drip Division features a complete line of faucets and fittings as well as Pro-Flo™ products used by water cooler, water treatment and drinking fountain manufacturers around the world. Tomlinson representatives serve clients in North, Central and South America, western and eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, China, Korea and Australia/New Zealand. Their trade-show participation schedule for 2016 includes Dubai, Singapore and Paris.
Drinkable water in developing countries
Serving this global client base includes everything from introducing high-end RO faucets in the latest styles and colors to working with non-profit organizations that help those who live in isolated rural regions with no reliable source of safe drinking water. These organizations also assist areas struck by natural disasters like flooding, earthquakes and tsunamis.
“Years ago we were contacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta,” Strunak said. “It’s very interesting to learn about the different markets in the developing world. We had no idea there were so many groups and programs that reach out to remote places where drinking untreated water can kill you and provide purification and filtration products to produce safe drinking water.”
Engle said, “Our goal is to continue developing and maintaining relationships with these groups that are involved in providing drinkable water in developing countries. It’s amazing and exciting that we can be part of that basic system and provide drinking water for these people.”
Now Tomlinson Industries serves those faith-based and other non-profit groups regularly and attends the annual Water and Health Conference at the University of North Carolina. There, Strunak learned from one attendee how the villagers tap into the filtered water containers. “You take a piece of metal, stick it in the fire until it’s hot, then press against the side of your bucket to make the hole in the bucket,” he was told. “Doing trade shows and things like that, you learn things you’d never think of,” Strunak said. “You meet people who are on the ground.”
Residential and commercial consumer trends
Engle likes that the water purification industry is ever-evolving. “Water is so much more popular than it was a few years ago,” she said. “People didn’t buy water, they were drinking Coke and other soft drinks. Now water is huge. Nowadays that lends itself to RO—people don’t want to buy bottled water if they can have it at their tap. The nice thing about RO is that all the work is done behind the scene—under the counter, in the basement—and the filtered water is dispensed at your sink or in your refrigerator.” Strunak added, “Switching to RO also reduces the number of bottles in landfills.
“On the commercial side, more and more tea brewers, coffee brewers and others are incorporating filtered water into their units,” he said. “This is a trend that’s likely to increase. One impetus for that was a new California law that requires all water used for drinking to be free of lead. It’s critical that suppliers understand the importance of using lead-free brass.”
Tomlinson Industries offers lead-free, high-end faucets for RO, treated water and hot water dispensing; lead-free value or economy faucets for RO and treated water and lead-free components for drinking fountains and treated water dispensing. One stand-out product feature of Tomlinson faucets is the inclusion of the proper air gap with each unit—there’s no need to keep track of different model numbers.
Looking ahead, Tomlinson Industries plans to add two new styles to its lead-free, high-end RO faucet line. “We are constantly looking at new and trending finishes,” Engle said. “We are always looking to use current product or to tweak product to expand into new and emerging markets.”