By Denise M. Roberts
Vertex Water Products is a privately owned corporation, housed in a 15,000-square-foot facility that manufactures and markets residential and light commercial RO systems, POU bottle-less water coolers and water conditioning systems that reduce scaling caused by hard water. Company President Hank Voznick is joined by sons Hal (Vice President and General Manager); Steve (VP of Sales) and Dan (Marketing Manager) to make the company a dynamic force with which to be reckoned. (Hal’s children have also been a part of Vertex’s growth, helping out whenever possible, doing a variety of tasks from working on the assembly line to running system tests.) In addition, industry veteran John Miller is National Sales Manager. The company sells to independent dealers throughout North America, Canada and Mexico, and is notable for not requiring minimum orders, premiums or dealer fees. The company’s motto sums it up quite well: Pure water for everyone.
Tackling problems from the inside
Hank Voznick founded the business in 1998 when he ran for a seat on the Upper San Gabriel Water Board. He learned that only one percent of delivered water was used for drinking and cooking, according to reports that attempted to show that municipal systems must provide potable quality water. Examining the available technology,Voznick realized that the most effective way to treat that one percent of water consumed by humans would be to filter it at the point of use using RO technology, treating it to a much higher standard than any city water. He set out to design a small and economical POU RO filtration system and created the Vertex PureWaterMachine™, designed specifically to fit easily under a kitchen sink.
Hal got involved in the water industry while working as a project manager at a major US pump manufacturer, learning the marketing and technical intricacies of the residential water treatment industry. “When I joined Vertex, I used what I’d learned to help my father develop the business and really make it sustainable,” he said. “I have worn many hats in the organization, doing everything from overseeing RO system assembly in the early years to new product design, development and implementation. Hank’s background in chemical engineering and my background in mechanical engineering make us a potent product development team and we create innovative and high-quality products that bring value to our customers. In the early days with the company, we were still a pretty small operation, with only four or five employees.
“The first office was very small, just large enough for two desks and 300 square feet of storage. We soon moved to a 2,000-square-foot facility, which allowed us to manufacture the system in-house and to customize RO systems, and to develop the higher flowrate systems for light commercial use. I also moved quickly to solidify our OEM parts and component suppliers and expand our manufacturing facility, developing the quality-control procedures needed to ensure the consistency of our products. When I started, I immediately submitted the four- and five-stage systems for Gold Seal certification by the Water Quality Association. We have our PureWaterMachines tested and certified on a regular basis and now, we have eight systems certified; more are planned for the future. All of our products are designed to meet those same high standards and they receive the same quality control before they leave the factory.”
The company’s main product lines include the eight certified PureWaterMachine residential and light commercial RO systems, 15 PureWaterCooler™ POU water dispensers with filtration that includes two- and three-temperature models, floor standing and counter-top units, PureWaterConditioner™ POE and POU water conditioner systems that reduce hard-water scaling, using both traditional ion exchange water softeners, as well as physical water treatment systems that do not need chemicals and produce no brine discharge. Vertex also offers two recently developed systems as well. The PureChill™ line of coolers are two-temperature water dispensers that chill water on demand and eliminate the need for an open reservoir for cold-water storage. The GreenMachine four-stage undersink RO system reduces wastewater to the drain by up to 50 percent. It uses high-performance filter media manufactured to significantly reduce greenhouse gases, eliminating the need for bottled water and its negative environmental impact.
Perfecting a business model
“We leveraged our expertise in water treatment and knowledge of the marketplace to develop POU dispensers and focused on the growing business-to-business sector,” Voznick said. “To remain competitive in the marketplace, many of our basic components are made for us in Taiwan. We avoid the problem of poor quality control often seen in Asian products and the uncertain outcome of just moving boxes by inspecting incoming shipments, building or assembling the systems in-house and testing our products before they leave the factory. With what we call our menu-based program, we build each order on demand, to meet the customer’s needs.
“With the growth of our PureWaterCooler line of bottle-less water dispensers, we provide equipment to independent and regional beverage service providers throughout the US. Our wealth of water treatment products and experience uniquely positions us to help these operators with both cooler equipment and water filtration and conditioning solutions. Our goal is to provide an excellent product at a competitive price with the best support in the industry. We strive for 100-percent customer satisfaction. We make products whose quality is consistent and can always be depended on. All models have been field-tested for durability and where possible, are factory-tested before being shipped. All of our products come with a quality guarantee and are backed by our service support from a dedicated staff of expert technicians for the life of the product. Replacement parts and service manuals are available for our customers to service and support the product.”
“We have weathered the recession pretty well thanks to our loyal client base,” said Voznick. “They’ve been loyal to us because we held our prices, increased our service and have a great product. And based on interviews with our top 20 dealers, we believe that business will improve going forward. The future is bright for this industry and the need for POU water filtration will continue to increase as people become more aware of existing water contamination through the media and elsewhere.
For the near term, bottled-water will continue to be an overused method for getting clean water, even as POU water filtration in homes and offices increases. There are now several different technologies that can be used to reduce hard-water scaling besides a traditional ion exchange softener with its brine discharge. These will gain more market share as the understanding of how they work and their reliability becomes more widely known. Here at Vertex, we continue to develop the best water treatment equipment possible using the latest technologies available. Our industry will always be changing and advances in technology will show us new ways to help the world get safe clean drinking water.”